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75% of British Columbians are worried about their online financial data, 60% are worried about cameras on their devices, and even 33% cover the cameras on their devices to protect themselves.

Vancouver, BC – Our latest Insights West poll shows that many British Columbians are concerned about the privacy of their online information and behaviour. Concerns are widespread, but highest on the list include social media determining which news or advertising is shown to users and election meddling, the worry about financial data being stolen, and the possibility of cameras on technology devices watching you.  Many British Columbians have taken measures in an attempt to protect themselves online including covering their webcams/laptop cameras with tape and using “incognito browsing”.

Confidence in Internet security/privacy is low across the province. When asked how secure do you think your online information and online behaviour is, residents are split right down the middle—half believe their online information is not secure (15% “not at all secure”, 35% “not very secure”) and the other half feel it is secure (but only 4% say “very secure”, while 46% say “somewhat secure”). Interestingly, younger British Columbians are less likely to believe their online information is secure, as those aged 18-34 are the more skeptical with 56% believing it’s not secure compared to 43% of those aged 55+.

Breaking down the province’s worries about online security, the study found that the security of social media and financial data are at the forefront of most British Columbians’ concerns. The vast majority (75%) of BC residents are currently worried about their financial data (credit card numbers, bank accounts, etc) that they provide online being stolen (30% very worried, 45% somewhat worried). The same number (75%) are also worried about social media and online browsing behaviour being used to determine which news or information is being shown to individual users (38% very worried, 37% are somewhat worried). A similar number (74%) of British Columbia residents worry about social media being used to unfairly influence elections in Canada (39% very worried, 35% somewhat worried).  A slightly lower number (70%) is worried about social media and online browsing behaviour being used to target advertising, (36% very worried, 34% somewhat worried).

Security and privacy concerns also border on the paranoia/conspiracy-type of concerns, as BC residents are fearful of many improbable scenarios from their device cameras and conversations. A very high 6-in-10 residents are worried about cameras on devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) being used by someone to unauthorizedly watch them (21% are very worried, 39% somewhat worried). Nearly as many (55%) are concerned that using the “tap” function on a credit or debit card could result in cards being used in an unauthorized way (19% very worried, 36% somewhat worried). Just over half (53%) are worried about data from “smart” appliances (home appliances such as lights, security systems, heat), being collected and used without consent (24% very worried, 30% somewhat worried). About the same number (52%) are also worried about phone/FaceTime/Skype conversations being listened to by someone they didn’t authorize to listen (18% very worried, 34% somewhat worried). Lastly, even though only about 15% of households have a smart assistant,40% are worried about commands made to a verbal/voice assistant having a result they didn’t intend (ie: making a purchase, sending a message to someone, calling someone), with (15% very worried, 25% somewhat worried).

British Columbians have split views when it comes to their online behaviour (social media and online browsing) being used by companies like Google and Facebook to target advertising to them. Half of BC residents (49%) don’t like targeted advertising and think it is a violation of their privacy to use their data without their consent, a further 45% accept it because sites and apps need to make money by advertising, and 6% actually like it because this way they only get ads that are appropriate for them.

When considering online data and where and how it is stored, there are a mix of opinions. Storing data both securely and in Canada is important for 36% of BC residents, while 37% prioritize storing the information securely and 27% prioritize storing the information in Canada. Just under half of British Columbians (44%) use “Incognito Mode” while browsing the internet to prevent their data from being tracked, with 26% using it occasionally, 16% using it regularly, and even 2% using it every time they surf the web.

Regarding cameras on personal devices, there are quite a few British Columbians concerned about “Big Brother” or worse watching them. A third of BC residents (33%) cover the camera on their laptops/computers when they are not using them. A further 8% of BC residents cover the camera on their tablets, and 7% cover the camera on their smartphones!

“BC residents are on high alert and have many rational and irrational concerns when it comes to online privacy and security” says Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “Concerns are driven by the constant headlines around breaches of online security, hackers and public scrutiny of social media companies. Unfortunately, technology is evolving faster than government regulators are able to act, and as a result, consumers are fearful and cautious around this area—and the problem isn’t going away anytime soon”.


About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

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About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from February 22 – February 24 2019 among a representative sample of 860 BC adult residents. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
Insights West