US consumers care about privacy, Brits not so much.

A new survey carried out by Pew Research indicates that 91% of Americans feel that they have lost control over how their personal information and details are collected and how they get used by companies. The survey which looked at the opinion of Americans on the heel of the Edward Snowden revelations also uncovered a surprisingly high percentage of those that took part in the survey, in general, feel they should be worried about surveillance from the Government.

CCTVAccording to the BBC, an expert stated in relation to the results that the findings were “unsurprising”. I, myself am not surprised by the results either, especially since the revelations of Snowden and the details that the world now knows about how the US agencies such as the NSA and British GCHQ gather data on such a massive scale without question and in the majority of cases without the knowledge of any other legal or government departments.

Author of the report, Mary Madden stated that due to the revelations of Snowden and a string of high profile data leaks, such as the one which affected Target back in December 2013 and the more recent 53 million email address heist and earlier credit/debit card breach that hit Home Depot in November 2014, the American public are now concerned about privacy on an all time high scale.

Madden said, “There is both widespread concern about government surveillance among the American public and a lack of confidence in the security of core communications channels, At the same time, there’s an overwhelming sense that consumers have lost control over the way their personal information is collected and used by companies.

With Virtual Private Network use on the increase, it is no wonder that 61% of the survey respondents claim they want higher levels of protection for their data. The way this should be achieved is through better security at companies, such as cloud providers and social media websites, coupled with increasing the awareness of the insecure nature of internet access such as when using public wi-fi connections. While data security and securing consumers internet connections is often spoken about, the awareness that a VPN can and will protect you from snooping on public wi-fi networks as well as go some way to protect against mass government surveillance needs to be increased.

While the US consumer is highly concerned about data security and privacy, the same can not be said for those of us in Britain. Awareness of secure VPN providers in the United Kingdom is relatively low and I find myself regularly explaining their use and benefit to those who I come in contact with. The British consumer appears to have taken the economic approach of laissez faire (leave alone) to privacy and especially in regard to the Snowden revelations, after the initial publicity, carrying on as normal seems to have resumed.

In an article published by YouGov Academic Director, Dr Joel Faulkner Rogers notes, the attitude of the British public concerning the security services and what they do appears to be the somewhat romantic ideals of James Bond movies and while the reality of it may be anything but, that ingrained belief appears to be a leading factor in the lack of concern shown by the British public after the initial outcry from the Snowden revelations. Interesting findings from the report found that when questioned, 60% of British citizens thought that the UK Intelligence Services can with no questions asked “hack into calls/emails/text messages of UK CITIZENS” and although on the higher end of the percentage scale, one would assume that more people would suspect that the intelligence services could do such a thing.

Perhaps more worryingly or more telling about British attitudes to privacy, versus those of our American counterparts is that when the same question was asked under the header of, “The UK Intelligence Services SHOULD BE allowed in some circumstances to hack into calls/emails/text messages of UK CITIZENS with no questions asked” a massive 43% agreed. With a 17% percent drop from the “thought they could” angle, it is still nearly half of all those surveyed who felt it was OK for the intelligence services to access those types of communications without question, without a court order (subpoena) and without any due diligence or reasoning behind the act.

While the UK public may be uninterested in privacy concerns, a sigh of relief can be breathed due to the number of companies who are taking the Snowden revelations seriously. NTT Communications carried out a study of global companies including UK based ones and asked 1000 ICT decision makers their thoughts.

Four key areas came to light that included Data Sovereignty which relates to the physical location where online data is stored, no longer are companies happy to store their company data anywhere and 97% of European organisations were considering data cloud storage in their own region.

Data SecurityCompliance and regulation training was another major concern in regard to data protection laws. One of the most interesting aspects was Changing procurement and delaying projects to allow decision makers within an organisation the time to research details about the cloud providers they use, such as location, security credentials and ensuring that those who run the company behind the service are bona fide. Finally one of the most important aspects was to look for alternatives to data security with encryption such as the use of VPN services being decided was the most viable option.

So while American consumers are concerned about their privacy, companies work harder to ensure our privacy, sadly, for the time being at least the message about security online and the privacy issue appears at first glance to be an undercurrent topic in the United Kingdom.

CCTV Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee, Data security image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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