One of the basic questions of the Social Impact Study 2013, which was conducted for the 14th time this year, was how concerned Mr. and Ms. Austria are about their data. Roughly one week of surveying at the beginning of June showed that close to half of the participants are worried about their data on the Internet. After the NSA spying scandal was revealed in June, this jumped to 65 percent.
More knowledge, more security
It seems that Edward Snowden’s whistle blowing has increased uncertainty among the Austrian population. The study showed a simple correlation: The less a person actively deals with data security, the more worried he or she is. Having an affinity for technology helps. According to Angelika Kofler, the head of social and organizational research at GfK Austria, traditional patterns are apparent. Men generally deal more with data security, and are less worried.
Of the perceived risks, 70 percent come from the lack of a virus scanner on a computer, even though they are relatively easy to install most users, said Kofler. Some 61 percent see losing their mobile phone, laptop or tablet as the greatest risk to their personal data. Online shopping is a risk according to 51 percent, while 34 percent see mobile phone apps and 25 percent the downloading of music or movies from the Internet as a source of risk.
Worried about their money
The data that people are interested in protecting the most pertains to their money. For 94 percent of the participants, access to their own account is at the top of their list of priorities. Credit card data security is important for 84 percent. Financial information is followed by medical information, for example medical files, which 57 percent of the respondents are concerned about. Only 47 percent feel that private contacts and e-mails need to be protected. The protection of business contacts and e-mails is only important for 28 percent.
Some 67 percent of Austrians use a firewall to protect their computer. Free virus scanners are used by 57 percent. Despite the popularity of firewalls and virus scanners, only 36 percent pay for such products. About 21 percent have encryption software for their files and e-mails installed on their computers. Nine percent use anonymizer software.
When saving their data, 63 percent trust their desktop or laptop computer. Some 56 percent use an external hard drive. Around 45 percent save data on USB thumb drives. About 35 percent save their data in printed form. Kofler said, “The dream of the paperless office has not materialized.” Only 7 percent trust cloud services on the Internet with their data.
As far as data backups are concerned, Kofler noted, “People are slow learners.” In the event of a crash, 57 percent of all participants would lose their personal data. Only 43 percent make backups. Tablet users are the greatest backup proponents, and 58 percent of them have at least one backup. “Tablets aren’t mainstream yet. Right now, mostly people who have an affinity for technology use them,” Kofler explained.
Roughly 13 percent of the participants have already lost a mobile phone (11 percent) or a laptop (3 percent). For about 45 percent of these people, the data was protected by a password, but was not saved anywhere aside from on the lost or stolen device.
An analysis of passwords showed that most participants use them, but in a very simple manner. Some 94 percent of respondents use passwords for their computer, mobile phone or tablet. But 47 percent use the same password for multiple accounts. Passwords are changed rarely or never. Some 30 percent only use simple passwords, like their birth date or a name.
About 49 percent memorize all their passwords, and do not write them down. Around 37 percent write their passwords down and keep them in a safe place. Ten percent have a digital document containing all passwords.
Balancing security and sharing
How hard it is to balance security and sharing is apparent when you look at where people share personal information. Some 52 percent share their information on social networks. About 14 percent do this on forums and blogs, 11 percent on dating platforms, and 11 percent on a personal web site.
App use has increased in line with the spread of smartphones (2013: 61 percent, 2012: 51 percent). About 50 percent of people now use applications on the mobile telephone. Three fourths of the participants would stop using an app if it presented a security risk. For one fourth, that would depend on what app it is. Many Austrians would not want to stop using Facebook or Whatsapp, even if they were revealed to be non-secure.
When the participants have questions about security issues, 55 percent of them check on the Internet. About 49 percent contact their service provider. Some 30 percent get their information from the media, 26 percent ask friends for advice, and 24 percent ask government agencies.
No government access
A1 technology director Markus Grausam summarized, “Data protection should cover everything, and shouldn’t cost anything. People rely on technical devices, and are hardly willing to modify their behavior.” The “Internet for Everyone” initiative was launched to provide better information in this context.
In the coming years, the question of government access to personal data is to be examined in the Social Impact Study. A1 had this to say to all customers who are worried about the sharing of data by different Internet companies or other organizations: “We do not share any data without a court order. And there is no interface that would provide external access. The only place customer data is stored is on our servers.”
The Social Impact Study has been conducted by A1 and GfK Austria since 1999. In 2013, 1,000 mobile phone users aged 12 and higher were polled to find out about their usage behavior and social changes as a result of the use of the Internet and smartphones.