Security Concerns Stifling Digital Adoption

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NTIA warns that Americans are refraining from some online activities because of privacy and security concerns.

In-brief: Americans’ concerns about online security and privacy are prompting them to limit their online activity, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

Americans’ concerns about online security and privacy are prompting them to limit their online activity, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Commerce.


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The Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said on Friday that public faith in the Internet has dimmed in the wake of data breaches, cybersecurity incidents, and reports critical of the privacy practices of online services. The report is based on survey data from 41,000 households.

The biggest threat comes in the form of “negative personal experience,” the report finds. Nineteen percent of Internet-using households surveyed reported having been affected by an online security breach, identity theft, or similar malicious activity during the prior 12 months. That correlates with some 19 million households, NTIA said.

And security incidents appear to correlate with the number of endpoints in Internet using households. Thirty one percent of households that reported at least five different types of Internet connected devices suffered a security incident – three times the rate for households with a single Internet connected devices.

No surprise: direct experience of adverse events online is deterring people from participating in some kinds of online  activities. Forty five percent of those surveyed said they refrained from conducting financial transactions online, making purchases or expressing personal opinions on controversial issues.

The long-term impact could be pronounced, NTIA said:

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. 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.

Read more on the NTIA website.