This month at the Asia-Pacific Regional IGF in Bangkok we will release the fourth annual Internet Society Survey Report on Internet Policy Issues in Asia-Pacific.
Findings from this year’s report show that cybersecurity, access, data protection, connectivity and privacy are the top five concerns for Internet users. These issues have more or less remained constant since 2014, however, not surprisingly this year cybersecurity has become the top issue.
Other issues that respondents expressed concern for relate to fake news, increasing digital surveillance that violates privacy rights, and more frequent instances of censorship and site-blocking that impact freedom of expression.
The survey polled more than 2,000 Internet users from across the Asia-Pacific region on their attitudes towards current Internet policy issues. This year, the survey took an in-depth look at how the region perceives and deals with personal information online, and the extent to which various entities are trusted to protect people’s personal information and privacy rights.
Generally, the results are rather discouraging. The findings indicate the current level of trust in the Internet is low. Users are concerned that their personal information is not protected online, and this in turn translates to their hesitance in using online services. A large proportion of respondents (60%) also indicated they do not have the knowledge and tools to protect their privacy online. These have important implications on the rollout and use of not only commercial, but also public and social services online.
At the same time, users want to be informed, and desire to have a certain level of control over the collection and use of their personal information. Public and private organisations that collect and share user information need to take this into account when formulating or updating privacy frameworks. This includes the development of systems and tools that make it easier for users to understand the terms of service, and empower users to manage their privacy preferences.
Interestingly, users recognise that the protection of personal information online is a shared responsibility – and not just the owner’s own responsibility. Both the public and private sectors, and especially the platforms through which users transact financially online, not only need to build robust and secure networks and systems, but also develop tools to equip users with the knowledge and skills to use these services safely online. This will improve their confidence in using online services, and their trust in the overall Internet ecosystem.
Read the Online Trust Audit, which includes checklist of best practices and resources.