Americans Trade Privacy for Speed at Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

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Most Americans, if given the choice, would rather improve personal online security (57%) over internet speed (43%), new research has revealed. But public Wi-Fi practices turn that on its ear.

The survey, by SecureAuth in conjunction with Wakefield, shows that plenty of us are eschewing privacy for speed. The survey indicates that Americans as a whole are still disclosing personally identifiable information (PII) to use public hotspots, such as:

·         Their address (44%)

·         Their credit card number (32%)

·         Their account passwords (29%)

·         Their Social Security number (16%)

·         Their driver’s license number (15%)

“There are a couple of theories that may explain the discrepancy between millennials and older respondents,” the report noted. “Most millennials, who have grown up with continued technological advancement, are accustomed to fast and efficient technology. Concurrently, millennials, many of whom are active on a myriad of social media sites, have less qualms overall about disclosing personal information.”

The results are concerning given that the inherently open nature of public Wi-Fi means users are at greater risk of data theft, and therefore stolen identities, damage to one’s personal financial posture (owing to incidents such as the opening of credit cards in one’s name) and data being held for ransom.

The survey also shows a complicated picture once the results are segmented by demographics. For instance: More than half of millennials (54%) would rather improve their Internet speed than their personal online security. But when it comes to public Wi-Fi, most Americans (57%) have given some sort of personal information online over public Wi-Fi—but that number jumps to 78% among millennials.

Other demographic splits are interesting. For instance, while men are split fairly evenly between personal online security (51%) and speed (49%), significantly more women care about online security (62%) vs. speed (38%).

Education matters too: 63% of college graduates care about security, vs. 47% of high school graduates.

“I can speak from the experience of someone who has dealt with the ramifications of a massive, high profile PII data breach,” said Craig Lund, SecureAuth CEO. “The hacker pulled the ‘Craig Lund’ information from the trough of 70 million stolen IDs, created a false credit card and started charging me. In that case, there was nothing I could have done to prevent the attack. In this case, individuals have agency in the matter: they can choose not to disclose PII over public Wi-Fi. This is especially important as we go into the summer travel season, when online behavior tends to be less business-focused.”

Photo © DeiMosz

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