Privacy advocates face negative stereotyping online

New research from HideMyAss! has revealed that people around the world perceive privacy advocates as untrustworthy, paranoid, male loners with something to hide despite their own views towards privacy.

The security software firm partnered with Censuswide to survey 8,102 people from the UK, US, France and Germany to compile its new report.

Even though two fifths of those surveyed (41%) agreed that privacy is an indispensable human right, 80 per cent believed their online history could be accessed without their knowledge by governments, hackers, police and partners.

The research also highlighted a general apathy towards protecting privacy as more than one in five admitted they take no action to protect it. Of those who do take action, 78 per cent rely on some form of password protection as their many privacy measure. More than half (56%) of respondents claim to never share their password with anyone and 22 per cent do not save passwords on their browsers or devices.

Privacy in real life but not online

Consumer privacy advocate at HideMyAss!, Brad Poole offered further insight on the results of the research, saying:

“Why do we demand privacy offline but attach suspicion to those who pursue it online? This unhelpful stereotyping could be preventing people from protecting their privacy rights in a consistent and effective way, encouraging personal information and identity theft by cybercriminals, and even spying and invasive profiling by organisations and governments.”

By not applying privacy options, we are unconsciously handing over our digital identities and life histories in return for a more convenient experience. We need to eliminate the stigma associated with privacy online otherwise we reinforce the perception that everyone who cares about their personal privacy is worthy of doubt.”

HideMyAss! also found that while there is overwhelming support for people using the Internet privately for legal actives (74%), 26 per cent of respondents believe that people who aren't willing to divulge what they do online have something to hide with 24 per cent expecting them to be untrustworthy and more than a fifth (22%) of the opinion they are more likely to have a criminal record.

When it comes to the particular traits of privacy advocates, respondents said they could be paranoid (52%), loners (37%) or people partial to spying on their neighbours (36%).

As our lives become increasingly digital, protecting your privacy online has never been more important.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.