Poll Suggests Consumers More Cautious Online Post Snowden

According to a new survey from Harris Interactive, a significant number of consumers are being more careful with online activities in the year since Edward Snowden revealed information about NSA phone and Internet surveillance. Among the poll’s findings, Harris learned that 33 percent of those 18 to 34 said they were doing less online shopping, 29 percent of people in the same age group said they had reduced online banking activity, and 24 percent of overall respondents explained they were “less inclined to use email.”

In addition, 47 percent of respondents said that they “changed their behavior and think more carefully about where they go, what they say, and what they do online.”

“I think we are seeing something significant here,” suggested Stephen Cobb, a researcher at security company ESET, which sponsored the study. “I don’t recall the Internet going backward at any other time.”

“I don’t think people have short attention spans on this topic, and this news is ongoing,” he added. “This is historic. Twenty years from now, when people say ‘do you remember those privacy issues,’ the answer is going to be yes. This is on par with Watergate. We are seeing reforms and legislation emerging, just like Watergate.”

The potential shift in behavior could have an impact on industries such as health care and finance that are making efforts to expand methods of electronic communication, record keeping and transactions.

The Wall Street Journal points out that Cobb believes the survey results “suggest that businesses need to be on their ‘best behavior’ when it comes to surveillance, data and privacy, and that they must be transparent about how they approach those subjects. Missteps in this area will be judged more harshly this year than they were last year. Already, consumer Internet companies such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have adopted greater use of encryption, he said.”