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January 20, 2015

Technology Has Hurt Personal Privacy, Survey Finds

Internet users are more concerned than ever about the impact of technology on privacy and believe legal protections to be insufficient, a Microsoft survey has discovered.

Of the 12 countries surveyed in Microsoft’s second annual survey of Internet users around the world, 11 said technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Only India was the exception.

In the U.S., 64 percent of respondents said the impact was negative. Only Turkey, France and Japan had higher negativity rates at 65 percent and 68 percent for the latter two.

“Majorities of respondents in both developed and developing countries think that the legal rights of Internet users should be governed by the local laws of the country where the users live; that if a foreign government wants information about a person stored in a datacenter in that person’s country, they should have to seek permission from the person, not just the government; that police officers should have to get a search warrant to search for personal information on PCs; and that personal information stored in the cloud should be subject to at least the same privacy protections as personal information stored on paper,” the report reads.

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Other points of interest from the survey include:

  • In every one of the 12 countries, respondents say personal technology has had a positive impact on their ability to find more affordable products, including 77 percent in developed countries and 72 percent in developing countries. Even the least enthusiastic country, China, believes this at a rate of 65 percent.
  • Fully 60 percent of respondents in developing countries think personal tech has had a positive impact on social bonds, compared to just 36 percent of respondents in developed countries.
  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents in developing countries think technology-enabled, sharing-economy services — like Uber and Airbnb — are better for consumers than traditional services like taxis and hotels. But 67 percent of respondents in developed countries think the traditional services are better for consumers.
  • In developing countries, the majority of online parents (77 percent) want their children to have more access to technology, but in developed countries, the majority of online parents (56 percent) want their children to have less access.
  • There is a real split in engagement regarding the very topic of this survey: science and technology. Although large pluralities of respondents in all twelve countries believe the best jobs in the future will be in STEM, fewer than six in ten respondents in developed countries say they are interested in working in STEM, compared to 85 percent in developing countries. And while 77 percent of women respondents in developing countries feel encouraged to work in STEM fields, only a minority – 46 percent – of women respondents in developed countries do.

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