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Internet trust declining, survey finds

Rules around how organisations and governments use personal data needs to be re-evaluated, according to new research.

A new survey from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), conducted by Ipsos, reveals consumer trust on the internet is declining, with people worried about their online privacy and security.

When it comes to how personal data is handled by private corporations and governments, the 2016 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust found increased concern.

The survey found a strong majority (85%) of respondents believe that their governments should work closely with other governments and organisations to make the internet more safe and secure.

When asked about online privacy, more than half of respondents (57%) were more concerned about their online privacy compared to one year ago, with only a minority of global citizens (38%) trusting that their activities on the internet were not monitored, and similarly less than half of respondents (46%) trusting that their activity online were not being censored.

“The centrality of trust in informing the attitudes of global citizens about Internet security is perhaps one of the most crucial findings of the global survey,” explains Fen Hampson, director of CIGI’s Global Security & Politics Program and co-director of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.

“Internet users are expressing a clear lack of trust in the current set of rules and, more importantly, in the actors that oversee the sharing and use of personal data online,” he says.

“There is an overwhelming consensus among respondents that the Internet is everyone’s issue, and that no single actor or institution is absolved of responsibility or can be trusted more than others in the pursuit of its effective governance,” Hampson says.

“More than just a vibrant symbol of human progress, the internet, has allowed populations around the world to bridge physical and economic divides, while further permitting unbounded human development and enhanced freedom,” he adds.

“However, today there exists unanswered questions about the extent to which global citizens can trust the internet’s limitless reach, and exactly whose responsibility it is to govern this unchartered space?”

Torbjörn Fredriksson, leading UNCTAD's work on e-commerce and development, says protecting the privacy of internet users is a key policy challenge in which every human being has a stake.

“The findings within the survey underline the importance of accentuating the multi-stakeholder dialogue on how to create greater trust in online transactions,” Fredriksson says.

When it came to perceptions of who global citizens felt they could trust to keep personal information safe and secure, only three in ten (30%) respondents agreed that their own government is currently doing enough to keep personal information secure and safe from private companies, and similarly three in ten (31%) agreed that private companies are doing enough to keep personal information secure and safe from governments.  

Further than this, most (83%) global citizens appear to have changed their online behaviour in an effort to control the amount of personal information that is being shared online

The behaviour information ranges from minor changes such as avoiding opening emails from unknown email addresses (55%) to more substantial changes such as doing fewer financial transactions (23%), or even using the Internet less often (11%).

“The results of the global survey demonstrate that the rules, actors and models of governance around how personal data is used online must change,” explains Ipsos Global Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker.

“The survey data tells us that global citizens are increasingly uneasy and deeply concerned about the fact that no clear rules currently exist to hold actors such as national governments or private companies to account in the use and sharing of personal data online,” he says.

“As global citizens become more hesitant about their conduct online, there is a clear desire to see these actors cooperate in finding new, bold and innovative ways to govern the internet.”

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