Disconnect between Americans' online attitudes and actions in a post-Snowden world

A nationwide study reveals a deep disconnect between our attitudes and actions in protecting our online security and privacy
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Many people say they want to protect their online privacy, but the trade-off between security and convenience makes it difficult for them to sacrifice things like their level of social presence. In the trade-off between security and convenience, the latter almost always wins.

Online VPN Provider Hide My Ass! (HMA) recently released research that reveals the deep disconnect between Americans' attitudes and actions when it comes to online security and privacy in a post-Snowden world.

Few consumers use tools like two-factor authentication, email encryption programs or privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins.

According to HMA less than half of consumers even know what a virtual private network (VPN) is.

The company interviewed 2,000 individuals at a representative sample of the U.S. population for the survey in November 2015.

It discovered how consumers approach their online security and privacy. It then defined what it calls its "Digital Life Spectrum" which included five distinct user personas.

These personas, and a quiz reveal our different approaches to online life.

According to the study, 63 percent of consumers have experienced online security issues. Yet only 56 percent of those victims subsequently made any type of permanent behavior changes.

The company discovered that almost one in four (24 percent) use unsecured public Wi-Fi 'quite often' or 'All the time' according to the survey.

Although consumers say they would like extra layers of privacy but few use currently available tools.

Only 16 percent utilize privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins, 13 percent use two-factor authentication and 11 percent use a VPN.

Only nine percent of consumers use email encryption programs and only four percent use anonymity software.

70 percent of consumers reported that the exposure of personal information online reduces their level of social media use and presence.

However only a quarter have strict privacy restrictions in place on social media.

60 percent have given out inaccurate information on social media about themselves as a safety precaution and 55 percent have asked someone to remove an online post, or untag them because of privacy concerns.

HMA says that consumers 'need to embrace this digital life proactively or suffer the consequences'.

The challenge is that most consumers seem to be unaware of security issues, online threats, impersonation and exposure of personal information. Until there is an issue, they will carry on exactly as before.

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