More households reconsidering how they use the Internet – WTOP

WASHINGTON — As more Americans are being affected by cyberattacks and security breaches, many are starting to change how they’re using the Internet in order to stay safe.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found that nearly half of all American Internet-connected households have stopped at least one online activity because of a privacy or security concern. The study found that three in 10 households have stopped at least two online activities.

Financial transactions was the most likely activity to see a dip, with three in 10 saying they stopped conducting this type of business online.  A quarter of respondents said they had stopped buying goods or services online because of these privacy or security concerns.

Social networking also took a hit. A quarter of respondents said they have stopped posting on social networks because privacy concerns and one in five have reconsidered making a controversial opinion online, either on a social network or on a forum.

The biggest concern for Internet-connected households is identity theft, an issue for 63 percent of respondents. Banking or credit card fraud was second at 45 percent.

Data collection was a big concern for about one in five respondents.  Collection by online services was a worry for 23 percent of respondents and roughly 22 percent were concerned about losing control over personal data.  Slightly fewer households, just 18 percent, were concerned about data collected by the government.

However, in this age of digital anonymity, concerns about threats to personal safety were a concern to about 13 percent of respondents, a likely reason for the reconsideration in social media use.

Households who expressed two or more concerns were about 6-8 percent more likely to stop an activity and those who had a breach recently were another 1-3 percentage point more likely to do the same.

The NTIA said in its analysis that its findings were troubling.

“NTIA’s initial analysis only scratches the surface of this important area, but it is clear that policymakers need to develop a better understanding of mistrust in the privacy and security of the Internet and the resulting chilling effects,” the agency stated in a government blog post.

“In addition to being a problem of great concern to many Americans, privacy and security issues may reduce economic activity and hamper the free exchange of ideas online.”

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