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Trust on the Internet at an all-time low

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A new global survey finds that consumers are increasingly worried about their online privacy and security, especially when it comes to ‎how their personal data is handled by private corporations and governments.
The survey commissioned by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and conducted by global research company Ipsos across 24 countries finds that a majority of global citizens (83%) believe that there need to be new rules about how companies, governments and other users use personal data.
Released this morning at the occasion of the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development E-Commerce Week in Geneva, the “2016 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust” findings show that a strong majority (85%) also 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, a majority of global citizens (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. 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,” says Fen Hampson, director of CIGI’s Global Security & Politics Program and co-director of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
“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.”
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. 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?
“Protecting the privacy of Internet users is a key policy challenge in which every human being has a stake,” says Torbjörn Fredriksson, leading UNCTAD’s work on e-commerce and development. “The findings within this survey underline the importance of accentuating the multi-stakeholder dialogue on how to create greater trust in online transactions.”
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,” says 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.
“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.”
The survey of 24 143 users, conducted between 20 November and 4 December 2015, included individuals in the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, the UK, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey and the US.