As Mozilla Japan, we conducted an online survey asking about people's awareness on online privacy. The results are in, and they are public as of today. In addition to this, we held a roundtable meeting with the Mozilla community on privacy awareness on January 24, 2016 at the Mozilla Japan Office.
We'll report on the community meeting below.
There was a wide variety of people at the meeting: they ranged from familiar faces of the Mozilla Japan community, the Firefox student marketing team, media reporters, and others who are interested in privacy issues including a mother, a middle school student, and some researchers. Based on the survey results, these 17 people got together to discuss their concerns on privacy, and also did a brainstorming session to think up of ways we can raise privacy awareness in Japan. Thanks to the mix of people, we ended up with lots of great ideas.
Survey on online privacy awareness
The meeting started off with Mozilla Japan evangelist Tomoya Asai sharing insights on online privacy and Mozilla's efforts to raise its awareness.
A discussion on the survey results followed. The online survey was conducted by a third party research firm targeting 1236 men and women in age groups "teens" up to "60 and above." With a copy of the survey results (link below) in each participants' hands, we pointed out some parts of the data that we found interesting.
Everyday privacy v. online privacy
While for "everyday privacy" 72.3% of respondents said they are either "very much" or "somewhat" concerned, the same answers combined when the question was narrowed to just online privacy was 77.6%. Though concerns are somewhat high in both cases, people were concerned about their privacy more online than offline. When just the numbers for "very much" concerned people are looked at, there was almost an 8% difference.
We had some insights about this from the roundtable. According to one of the participants, "with so many issues about money, viruses, bullying, and annoying ads online, I think people are more defensive about themselves online." A researcher studying privacy added on: "my past studies showed similar results: Japanese people are characteristic compared to other countries in that they have a generally high awareness about their privacy, but they don't take any actual actions to protect it."
Areas of high awareness
The survey asked about their privacy measures in different situations. Among the questions, when asked about their privacy measures when entering financial information or if they use virus protection or not, nearly 60% of respondents answered either they are confident about their privacy measures, or they care about their privacy measures and they take some kind of measures.On the other hand, there were questions that gained a rather high number of "I don't care" or "I don't know" answers: 23.0% for privacy settings for social networking services, 20.7% for sharing a tablet or PC device with family and others, 16.5% for when installing Apps and signing up for new online services.Based on these results, some participants inferred that "items that raise security issues have a high level of awareness" and "items with a low level of awareness are those that are difficult to intuitively imagine its harms."
People don't want to be tracked, but don't know what to do
The survey asked if the respondents knew about the private browsing feature on their browsers (not limited to Firefox) where users can browse the Internet without saving any history. The result: only 23.1% said they knew about the feature. However, out of these people, 68.5 % said they actually use the feature. From this data, one of the participants concluded that "if more people find out about private browsing, then more people might start using it"
The survey also asked if respondents knew about online tracking done by many online services. 33.9% of all respondents said they knew about tracking, and out of these people, only 22.2% said they have used a "tracking protection" feature before. Participants of the roundtable discussion commented: "many people probably know that they are being tracked from the fact that ads that are related to your search history appear on a completely different site" "most people probably don't know about the tracking protection feature yet."
Differences among age groups and data types
Other comments included a note on the age groups of the respondents. Participants wondered if there were any prominent differences that were observed among age groups. One of the Mozilla Japan Staff conducted a cross tabulation on the spot to answer the question: "I did some cross tabulations, and though some differences were seen - for instance, those who have children have a high awareness - but as a whole, there weren't any significant differences among age groups."
There was also a discussion about location information: "women typically worry when using location services" "as a high school student, I think about my location information for a moment before I post when I'm close to my home."
Ideas on raising online privacy awareness
Based on these discussions, the participants engaged in a brainstorming session to discuss ways to teach and make more people aware about their online privacy. The participants, along with Mozilla Japan staff, broke up into small groups each with a good age and gender mix. After the session, each group took turns presenting their plans.
First step: help people better understand online tracking
The first group's ideas were centered around the belief that they should first help people better understand online tracking. Their plans are as follows:Most people don't know how they are being tracked, nor how to know when they are being tracked. Therefore, many are intuitively feeling creepy about tracking without deep comprehension. Many people also say that if it is by a trusted group and it brings them manifest benefits, then tracking is okay. For the users be able to determine for themselves who can track them and who can't, they would need to understand tracking better. Their plan was to do this campaigning together with trusted companies who use tracking to provide good services.
Many of us don't really know what happens when our privacy is infringed
The second group's idea was to teach high school students about privacy so that they can teach their family and friends about measures they can take.Since much of the online population in danger is enjoying the web through smartphones, their idea was to create an app or website that teaches how to edit privacy settings on browsers, and provide them with a list of checkpoints such as tracking and location information that they can go through and check. Their plan was to raise media literacy of people through the site.
Providing people with actual actions they can take
Group 3 focused on spreading actual know-hows of privacy protection, rather than scaring people with the dangers of online tracking.
Many of us are aware that online privacy has potential dangers such as having location information paired with pictures and having our online actions integrated into a personal profile. What we need to do now is to show specific dangers of online privacy along with actions that we can take to prevent those dangers. Their plan was to share this information via social networking services or make it into a booklet that can be handed out to people.
Letting people experience the danger of online privacy
The last of the groups put their focus on the entering population of Internet users: mainly elementary and middle school-aged children. They gave the idea of holding workshops that they can join with their parents. Their idea was to have the participants use their smartphones to enter their personal information into a fake registration site, and then show them how much the site can understand about them based on the information. Through this demo, the participants will be able to get first-hand experience on the dangers of an information leakage. Their plan also included an idea to use the feedback from these workshops to create online contents such as videos and apps that can be viewed on devices such as the Nintendo 3DS.
Japan has a longer history of diffused online services than the rest of the world, with the development of a large cell phone ecosystem before the smartphone. Along with this, there has been many incidents regarding online security issues. From these characteristics, Japan can be said a country with a rather high level of security awareness.
However, even among those with a high level of awareness, comprehension levels on privacy were not so high. Even within the community members who met for the roundtable talk, some of them couldn't describe tracking anything more than "creepy."Mozilla's vision is to create a world where the users have choice and control over their own online privacy. To make this a reality, we must first raise the level of people's understanding.
Though the survey only targeted Japanese citizens, we are highly interested in results from other country as a comparison. We hope Data Privacy Day becomes a first step for many to understand and control their own online privacy.
The Japanese Mozilla community will continue our efforts to raise online privacy awareness even after Data Privacy Day. If you are interested in our efforts, please feel free to join our Google Group.
PS： Also, an event report by Firefox student marketing team member is available on their blog. Please visit their report.