The Canada based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) has teamed up with research company Ipsos to publish a Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust. The results are pretty interesting, and we highly recommend that anyone who wants to know more check out the website. The key facts that caught our eye, however, are that:
- 64% of users have some degree of concern about their online privacy compared to one year ago
- 78% of users are concerned about a criminal hacking into their personal bank accounts
- 77% of users are concerned about someone hacking into their online accounts and stealing personal information
- 74% of users are concerned about companies monitoring online activities and then selling that information for commercial purposes
- 64% of users are concerned about governments censoring the Internet
- 62% of users are concerned about government agencies from other countries secretly monitoring their online activities
- 61% of users are concerned about police or other government agencies from their own country secretly monitoring their online activities
- 34% of users believe their government will restrict access to the Internet
- 60% of users have heard about Edward Snowden
- Of those aware of Edward Snowden, 39% have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security as a result of his revelations
- 36% of users believe private information on the Internet is very secure
- 41% of users believe the chance of their personal information being compromised is so small that it’s not worth worrying about
What particularly peaks our interest is that while 60 percent of survey respondents have heard of Edward Snowden (and presumably are aware of his mass spying accusations against the NSA), ‘only’ 39 percent of these have taken additional steps to protect their online privacy.
Now, some sources (such as the usually spot-on Ars Technica) have downplayed this number, emphasising the ‘only’ part, but we take a somewhat different view…
Sure, it means that more people than not have carried on as was, despite being aware that every email they send, every SMS message, video chat (including intimate ones), and phone call they make, and every website they visit, is being spied on by sinister unaccountable government agencies (both of their own government and those of the United States and its Five Eyes anglophile spying partners), but this is , we feel, looking at the situation in a glass half empty kind of way.
What it does mean is that thanks to Edward Snowden almost half of all internet users who have heard of him have taken steps to improve their internet security (and we can certainly testify to a huge surge of interest in privacy technologies such as VPN). In total this means that 23.4 percent (almost a quarter) of all internet users have stepped up their security over the last year!
In terms of global population this is no mean number, and must already be providing headaches for the likes of the NSA, with their obsessive need to spy on everything everybody in the world does online.
Furthermore, we do not believe this is trend towards greater security is a short termed anomaly – the recent spat over phone encryption between Apple and Google on the one hand, and the FBI and US law enforcement on the other, demonstrates that growing lack of public confidence in tech companies that colluded with the NSA to betray their customers’ trust, for example, shows that Snowden’s revelations s are having a dramatic knock-on effect with powerful long term consequences.
This is a process that is likely to be exacerbated by the new documentary film by Laura Poitras, CITIZENFOUR, as it introduces the wistleblower’s evidence to a whole new global audience (and hammers home the point to those already aware of his revelations, but have yet to act upon them).
It is easy to be cynical (and there is much to be cynical about), but in our view this survey points to the world already being safer from Big Brother style ubiquitous government surveillance than it was a year ago, and offers hope that as more people take control of their own internet security, meaningful fightback against government over-reach can be achieved by ordinary people who value their privacy and freedom.