UK attitudes to online safety and personal safety are different

A survey of more than 2000 adults showed that 48% would be willing to share personal data with the police in return for greater security against criminal and terrorist attacks. This perhaps reflects the historical trust in the British Bobby: but fewer would trust this data with border control (37%), and only 22% are happy to share it with government.

Things are different online. “This confidence in sharing when there is a clear security benefit,” explains Mark Gibson, a sales and marketing director at SAS, “contrasts strongly with the public’s continuing wariness about government, banks or other groups using the information they’ve posted online or even knowing where they are.” The survey shows 77% of respondents would not be prepared for any groups to have access to their location information while 82% were not comfortable about groups using personal information they’ve made available on social media.

One area in which this trade for physical security conflicts with online wariness is shown in the growing use of social media to report crime; although there is also a considerable age difference. 15% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they would use social media to contact the police to report a crime, while only 1% of of the 55-plus group would do so.

Overall, SAS believes that the figures demonstrate a widespread lack of awareness of what happens to data posted online. 27% of social media users do not think that any groups make use of the personal information they post to social networks. Only 26% think that government uses it, and only 27% think their smartphone service providers do so. 

“The public perception about what happens to the information they share online,” says Gibson, “appears to be far removed from the reality. Our survey shows that nearly half (42%) of online British adults use social media websites at least once a day. Yet many don’t realize that by doing so they’re likely to be sharing data with a range of other groups. And when questioned directly, they are often nervous and even hostile about different groups using their information.”

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