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Fewer than 5% of UK and US 16 to 35 year olds believe their digital identity is completely protected by effective safeguards, according to the survey commissioned by security firm Intercede.
Analysts say this unease about ineffective security practices serves as a stark warning to businesses and government departments who provide online services and products.
The survey indicates a general concern about existing safeguards such as the use of easily hackable – but widely used – password-based authentication methods.
A quarter of the more than 2,000 consumers polled said they access more than 20 password protected websites, applications or devices in the course of a year.
However, 45% claimed they only change passwords when they have to and only 6% believe their data is completely secure based on the password policy they apply.
When asked about the impact of an increasingly digitally connected world, such as the increased use of mobile devices on their digital privacy, nearly 70% believe the risk will increase.
More disturbingly, 54% felt the failure of companies and governments to adequately protect identities and data will result in public distrust of goods and services.
A further 44% believe there will be an eventual decline in data sharing and 36% predict demands for action.
Almost 12% of respondents cited a decline in economic stability as a potential consequence of businesses and government failing to better protect consumers’ online identities, while 9% cited domestic instability and 6% cited international political instability as alternative outcomes.
“Millennials have been digitally spoon-fed since birth, yet a general malaise is brewing among this demographic in terms of how safe their online data really is,” said Lubna Dajani, a communications technology expert.
“Millennials understand their personal information is a form of currency they need to part with to access online services, yet they participate in this ‘digital trade-off’ in the belief that more can be done to protect their privacy,” she said.
According to Dajani, digital natives want more control over who should be able to access their information.
“Businesses and governments should urgently review current security protocols or else risk the potential to drive innovation and growth,” she said.
Intercede chief executive Richard Parris said it is time for organisations to stop “playing fast and loose” with people’s identity and data, which are the most important assets in a digital economy.
“There seems to have been a collective consensus that under 35s will accept sub-standard security in exchange for online service, but this clearly isn’t the case. The humble password should be consigned to the dusty digital archives where it belongs,” he said.
To restore trust, Parris believes smart companies need to look to stronger authentication techniques to ensure the future of digital commerce and information exchange, as well as their own competitive edge.
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