Research reveals we are all painfully complacent when it comes to privacy

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The last 12 months have been wonderful, for cybercriminals at least.

With more people working from home, the potential for attacks grew significantly and while one would hope that this would make folks more cautious about how they behave online, the opposite is true.

Here in South Africa we are painfully complacent when it comes to guarding ourselves against the ills of the online world and we have two pieces of research to illustrate this.

The first is from Kaspersky which asked people whether they always give apps permission to use their smartphone’s microphone and camera.

As many as 18 percent of South Africans said they always give apps and services permission to use their camera and microphone. While this is below the global average of 23 percent, it’s still concerning.

And while folks in South Africa are worried that somebody might be watching them (63 percent) the real problem here is that people are installing apps and using services that demand access to a camera and microphone without giving it a second thought.

“With cameras and collaboration apps more important for us to connect with the world, it can be easy for users to approve video and microphone access without thinking. However, these figures show how important it is for users to reflect and make informed decisions when installing apps or services,” Kaspersky wrote in its Consumer IT Security Risks Report 2021.

A figure from that report which struck us as odd is one regarding data breaches. Kaspersky reports that 50 percent of respondents said that they would no longer use an online service provider which had experienced a data breach.

We find this odd because another report from KnowBe4 paints a very different picture.

A survey of 700 smartphone users in Nigeria, Mauritius, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Morocco and Botswana regarding privacy issues has revealed that it isn’t a concern.

“The KnowBe4 Mobile Users in Africa survey gauged the opinions of Africa’s mobile users on the recent decision by WhatsApp to update their terms and conditions, sharing metadata with the rest of the Facebook group of companies. The survey found that not only did the majority of the respondents across Africa intend to continue using WhatsApp; but also, that their favourite alternative to WhatsApp was Facebook Messenger,” reports KnowBe4.

As a reminder, Facebook owns WhatsApp.

This gets stranger however because the majority of respondents (62 percent) said they were somewhat or very concerned about the new policy changes coming to WhatsApp. Surprisingly, however, only seven percent of respondents across the regions said they would cancel their WhatsApp account. In South Africa the number of people who said they would cancel or delete WhatsApp sat at 15 percent.

So folks are worried but also not moving to another service.

Look, we get it. Encouraging your friends and family to move over to another service is a schlep, but if you have real, valid privacy concerns it’s worth discussing them with your contacts and planning a move.

And while it’s not easy having technical conversations, it’s really worth helping your friends and family understand what the risks might be as KnowBe4 found that over a quarter of respondents didn’t understand the risks associated with the various messaging platforms.

Thankfully, there is a growing appetite to understand cybersecurity and online risk according to Kaspersky’s head of consumer product marketing, Marina Titova.

“For sure, many people aren’t instantly familiar with security protocols related to webcam usage and cybersecurity processes. However, what we are observing now is a strong positive trend of increased awareness around online safety and potential threats. This leads to more proactive consumer behaviour like taking preventive actions and checking permissions before allowing video and microphone access,” wrote Titova.

Privacy is not dead, but if we continue to be complacent about it, we might just wake up one day and find that we let it die because it was inconvenient to care about it.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.