Benzinga

Online Users: Increased Digital Footprint Is Jeopardizing Their Privacy

What we do online might seem like our business, but the odds are against us. Trackers, browser fingerprinting, third-party cookies: all these components contribute to the loss of privacy online. Not to mention ISPs or big-tech companies that harvest more than you imagine. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck our lives, the little privacy we had also seems to have faded away.

A recent report has shown that 48% of online users globally think their data and online privacy are jeopardized. Out of 8,000 surveyed consumers, 49% said that the main issue was the increased digital footprint due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lots of people think that they are losing control of their data when browsing the web. So, naturally, all online users are looking to boost their privacy and security. They don’t want to leave their data behind when browsing the web and get exposed to different services or potential cyberattacks.

The report also shows that around 77% of users globally have done something to decrease the digital footprint they leave behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased internet usage

Over 60% of consumers worldwide say that they’ve used more online solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, 60% of company leaders say that their organizations have adopted new technologies that they didn’t want to use in a normal situation because of potential privacy issues.

The increase of remote work has forced individuals and organizations to change their lifestyles and adapt to the changing times. Additionally, all employees had to receive an appropriate introduction to common cybersecurity risks when working from home.

Overall, the over-reliance on technology during the pandemic has led to more data exposure online. Many consumers say that they would want to reduce their digital footprints when the coronavirus outbreak is over.

The more online services people use, the more their personal and business data is generated. At the same time, more and more services and applications rely on gathering and using this data. It’s almost impossible to avoid it, and many people might feel helpless. Hence, they will feel reluctant to look for solutions. While you might not be able to make yourself completely anonymous and private online, some solutions help.

Who should take care of this issue?

Even though data protection regulations worldwide have been implemented before the pandemic, consumers feel that more should be done for them to get the privacy online they deserve. In addition, in most countries, people think that brands that use and store their data should be held more accountable.

On top of that, the overall sentiment is that they aren’t doing enough to protect their data. Almost 75% of online users globally want more transparency from brands when it comes to data governance. On top of that, 70% of people say that they will rather give their loyalty to brands if they know that their data is being used with care.

Both individuals and organizations know that they’ve been forced to adopt new technologies without giving much thought to data privacy. Everyone has turned to internet technologies to stay connected with each aspect of their lives but paid the price with digital liability.

Users want to reduce digital footprints because of brands

In the past, users were willing to tolerate the amount of personal data used and stored. But almost 60% of consumers globally now think that their digital footprint has grown excessively because of brands that offer online services.

In other words, consumers feel that service providers are overstepping in using personal data. But, on the other hand, two-thirds of global internet users think that behavior tracking directly invades privacy and shouldn’t be allowed.

Even though there are benefits of companies using personal data, 55% of consumers don’t want to get personalized offers if brands have to track them. On the other hand, 57% of consumers say they will avoid brands that track them online.

Actions made by users

All around the world, people are taking actions to reduce their digital footprints and warn brands that they can’t continue to do this for much longer. 38% of people say that they reject cookies that track them, 36% of them have unsubscribed from email lists, and 30% browse the web in private mode.

At the same time, this situation has only increased the usage of tools that allow individuals to protect their privacy. For example, Statista predicts that the VPN market will reach $75.59 billion by 2027. Quality VPNs have proven to be efficient in giving privacy and anonymity online. Thus, by using an online VPN, users can achieve two things. Firstly, it will encrypt their web traffic, successfully reducing their digital footprint. Secondly, they will mask their IP address. The latter is the unique identifier used to pinpoint each netizen. By hiding your real one, you can become more anonymous.

Other popular solutions include the use of Brave or Mozilla Firefox, two browsers that pay close attention to their users’ privacy. Some netizens can also explore browsing with Tor, a browser that has many security benefits.

However, after employing all these tools, you should not disregard one important recommendation. If you continue sharing various information on social media networks, you cannot reduce your digital footprint successfully. Thus, before posting personal information or photos, remember that it will exist for an undefined period of time.

Conclusion

Internet security and data privacy are becoming paramount as the whole web is developing. However, they do not seem to always go hand in hand. People are actively putting their lives online, including work, relationships, social interaction, and so on. Sadly, it also means that big companies have more information on our identities, preferences, even political views.

This is why both users and brands need to take necessary action and bring more transparency and security online. If there’s one thing that’s come out during this pandemic, it is awareness. Thousands of users now have more knowledge of the situation. Thus, since knowledge is power, they can finally do something about it. If you suspect shady or questionable behavior, be vocal and confirm or deny your suspicions.