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Do Privacy Attitudes Vary Depending on Generation?


Security company Fortinet recently release a research study detailing where Millenials and Gen-Xers stand in terms of security, privacy, data protection, passwords, email surveillance and more.  The results show that above all else, opinions on security and privacy vary significantly between each age group. According to the research findings, the study was completed using 150 Gen-Xers (33-48 years old, split evenly between female and male) and 150 Millenials (ages 18-32, split evenly between female and male).

In terms of password best practices and protection, the study found 49% of Gen-Xers do not have a password to protect their cell phone, while only 37% of Millenials did not have a password. In addition, 19% of Millenials said they were “vigilant” about changing their passwords, while only 13% of Gen-Xers were.  Overall, 41% of the total respondents said they “never change their online password or only change it when prompted.” On the plus side, the study reports that many respondents have different passwords for the various sites they use, instead of using the same password for each one.

The study also asked participants about email snooping and spying. In general, it seemed as though more Gen-Xers thought “the government agency overstepped its bounds” as only 41% of Millenials thought they did, while 47% of Gen-Xers thought they did. In addition, 16% of Millenials and 9% of Gen-Xers felt they could understand an employer monitoring their online activity and communications.

In order to determine what personal data each generation valued most, the study asked participants to rank which type of data they would be the most afraid of losing from the following list: medical information, mailing address, email address, financial statements, educational information, social security number, tax returns, personal files, work files, online passwords, contents of emails, Internet browsing history, online purchasing history and IP address. Both generational groups ranked their Social Security Number first and online passwords third, while every other ranking differed. Millenials ranked tax returns second, while Gen-Xers ranked their mailing address second. Gen-Xers ranked work emails fifth, while Millenials didn’t even rank work emails in their top five.

Though the sample size was quite small, the study gives a lot of insight into what different generations think about security and privacy. What do you think about the research study? Does it give sufficient insight into privacy and security behaviors among each generation? Let us know your thoughts. 

Posted by Jamie Friedlander on Feb 26, 2014

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