Who’s watching you?

Data Privacy Day survey reveals your fears online

Oslo, Norway – January 28, 2011

Ahead of terrorist attacks, becoming bankrupt and being attacked in their homes, people are more worried about their online privacy being violated and becoming a victim of Internet fraud. Coinciding with global Data Privacy Day today, new survey research by Opera Software in the United States, Japan and Russia pulls back the curtain and looks under the bed at what people worry about online.

Internet fraud as a result of online privacy violations was among the top four concerns tipped in all three countries, recorded by between 22 and 29% of respondents in each country. Distress over being hurt in a traffic accident topped the lists in Japan (35%) and the United States (27%), while relationship problems keep 40% of Russian respondents awake at night. Relationship drama and pandemics such as swine flu tied for second place in Japan’s worries (34%), while concerns for bankruptcy took third place in the United States (23%).

The online survey, administered by market research company YouGov, aimed to uncover what concerns people have for their online safety and privacy. More than 1000 people in each of the United States, Japan and Russia completed the survey between 19 and 24 January. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults aged 18+ in the three countries.

Anti-virus software rules as the preferred measure to protect privacy online, with Russia leading the pack (90%) ahead of the United States (79%) and Japan (68%). Despite their concerns for online privacy violations, less than two-thirds (61%) of respondents in the United States use safe passwords, and this was as low as a quarter of respondents in Japan. Regularly deleting browsing history fared even worse in the United States and Russia, though men delete browsing history more often than women in all three countries. Only using software and websites that do not collect information lagged far behind in people’s safety arsenal, used by just 9-15% of respondents in each country.

“It is interesting to note the gap between what people say concerns them online and what they do in practice to protect themselves,” said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. “We often see that it is human nature to fear traffic accidents but not wear a seatbelt or helmet, or dread bankruptcy but continue spending, and it very much seems like it is the same for online safety behavior.”

Worried about who is watching you online? Some 38% of Russian respondents were most concerned about social-networking websites having too much insight into their online behavior, far ahead of 15% in the United States and 10% in Japan, where social media ranked number 2. U.S. participants were most concerned about the government (35%). Japan held least trust in shopping sites (33%), while only 5% and 6% respectively in Russia and United States shared the same anxiety. Between 13 and 19% of respondents in each country were not worried about anyone gaining insight into their online activities.

When asked which device they feel is safer for accessing the Internet, all three countries preferred using a computer over a mobile phone, with the majority highest in Russia (62%). This trend was strongest among men. Between 22 and 31% of respondents in each country did not feel one particular device was safer than the other.

In all, 54% in the United States and 46% in Russia believe responsibility for ensuring people’s online safety and privacy lies with users themselves, while this response took second place in Japan (42%). Japan instead pinned responsibility on web companies (47%), which took out the number 2 spots in Russia (41%) and the United States (25%) far ahead of calls for government responsibility.

In sunnier news, all countries agreed that the most effective way to make the world a fairer place would be to give everyone equal rights and opportunities (between 51 and 65%). Vying for second and third place were ending all wars and ensuring everyone has the same access to information and participation in society. U.S. respondents were more pessimistic with 21% feeling that nothing could be done to make the world a fairer place, double the 11% in Japan and 9% in Russia.

“It is inspiring to speak to people about what concerns them online. There are important lessons for all of us about expectations people have for their web experience, and what we can do to improve their feelings of safety and security,” said Christen Krogh. “Opera believes strongly in the Web as a universal right, and it is heartwarming to see that people so highly value access to information as a means to make the world a better place.”

Graphics comparing results