Privacy Paradox: Online Habits and Personal Data

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The long-standing debate over online visibility — or invisibility for those who lock down their privacy settings — continues after EMC asked consumers about their willingness to forfeit the benefits and conveniences of the connected world for the assurances of privacy.

The conclusion of the EMC Privacy Index? People want the benefits of technology without sacrificing privacy. But exploring the study a little more reveals three privacy paradoxes, each with powerful implications for consumers, businesses and technology providers.

‘We Want it All’ Paradox

Consumers say they want all the conveniences and benefits of digital technology, yet say they are unwilling to trade privacy to get them:

  • 91% of respondents value the benefit of “easier access to information and knowledge” that digital technology affords.
  • Only 27% say they are willing to trade some privacy for greater convenience and ease online.
  • 85% of respondents value the use of digital technology for protection from terrorist and/or criminal activity; however, only 54% say they are willing to trade some of their privacy for this protection.

‘Take No Action’ Paradox

Although privacy risks directly impact many consumers, most say they take virtually no special action to protect their privacy:

  • 62% don’t change passwords regularly.
  • 4 out of 10 don’t customize privacy settings on social networks.
  • 39% don’t use password-protection on mobile devices.

‘Social Sharing’ Paradox

Users of social media sites claim they value privacy, yet they say they freely share large quantities of personal data (despite expressing a lack of confidence and trust in those institutions to protect that information):

  • Just 51% claim to have confidence in the skills of these providers to protect personal data, and just 39% claim to have confidence in those organizations’ ethics.
  • The majority of consumers (84%) claim they don’t like anyone knowing anything about them or their habits unless they make a decision themselves to share that information.
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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.