Can privacy and mobility coexist?
Users are more concerned with online privacy today than they were last year. What does the explosion in mobility mean for online security?
Internet users reported in a recent survey they are more concerned with their online privacy than they were one year ago. The results aren’t surprising: more than two thirds of Internet users said they worry about their privacy more today than ever. That’s according to the survey conducted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), which confirms that having just about any question answered with a few clicks on the Web may come at a cost—especially on mobile devices.
There have been quite a few highly visible security breaches in recent months, including many celebrity photo leaks, and the realization that so-called private apps Snapchat and Whisper don’t live up to their promises. But few people are aware that in some cases, phone companies are tracking users with cookie-like tokens and selling information on user interests to advertisers—a move than many are calling invasive.
On the plus side, there have been large strides toward preserving user privacy. Arguably one of the biggest wins for mobile privacy came with the announcement that Apple’s iOS8 iPhone operating system would feature encryption of mobile data. With this announcement, Apple joined Google in denying anyone—including law enforcement—access to user data. This move came with its fair share of questions. Is it really a good idea to deny information to law enforcement that could be instrumental in solving crimes and keeping the public safe? Despite government opposition, privacy advocates are calling mobile encryption a major success.
What’s really fascinating to me is the stark difference in the desire many have for privacy, and the unprecedented use of social media as a tool to share just about everything about us. The Internet is like a wide open door where our past (sometimes embarrassing) actions can easily by unearthed. The Internet doesn’t forget, even if the town yenta has moved on. Google may be forced to forget in some instances, but for the most part, we cannot undo online history.
But if Internet users are more concerned with their online privacy, why haven’t we seen any changes in their behavior? Some audiences have learned that their online footprint is inescapable, including a growing number of teens who are being more cautious with their online profiles due to the growing prevalence of prying college admissions officers. It’s easy for users on social media to forget that a comment that seem ordinary can tell a different story out of context.
The CIGI survey had another interesting statistic: only 45 percent of American survey respondents think that the government does a very good job of making sure the Internet is safe and secure. Is it the role of the government to intervene on behalf of its citizens in this realm? Or are Americans referring to their lack of trust in the government itself, post the Snowden/NSA revelations?
To learn more about what global audiences think about the internet and security, check out this infographic created by CIGI-IPSOS.