The UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom)
yesterday published a piece of research called “Being online: an investigation of people’s habits and attitudes”, which looks at a number of aspects of online behaviour and examines how citizens and consumers use the internet and interact with online services. The research, undertaken by Ipsos MORI, found overall that people’s attitudes towards the internet and the role it plays in their lives varies widely. This was primarily dictated by their confidence and competence when going online.
Interestingly, one of the key conclusions was that consumers assume that online rights and responsibilities should be the same as those offline. Although participants admitted that this was an assumption on their part. ICOMP has consistently stressed the importance of privacy and security in the online world.
The research also shows that general awareness of what happens to personal data online is quite low and that in fact many people often do not give it much thought. Although participants understood that their details are passed on to 3rd parties, most did not understand the mechanisms of how this happens, and indeed saw it as something that was impossible to prevent. That being said, the results of the research indicated that stories in the media or from friends were key factors in shaping perceptions of who to trust with their personal information online, particularly for those who were less digitally literate.
Furthermore, the research found that “there is a lot of confusion amongst consumers as to what constitutes as ‘safe behaviour’ online. The data shows that that people tend to make subconscious trade-offs between risk and rewards in their online activities. People use very varied strategies for staying safe online, although there is little consensus as to what these strategies should be.” In conjunction, the research shows that many people do not understand how online safety measures worked in concert and therefore often used double standards. For example whilst people may have antivirus software installed on their devices and believe that this provides general security online, they then fail to use verified methods of payment when making purchases, thus leaving themselves exposed to threats.
The Ofcom research shines a light on a number of aspects of consumer behaviour including data privacy, digital rights, consumer security and perceptions of the future of the internet. Indeed it should form a fundamental part of how Ofcom forms its own engagement policy.
The full report can be downloaded here.