Google reveals spike in Brits privacy concerns


Sophie Curtis

August 21, 2015

Google reveals users in Britain are increasingly concerned about their online safety, in the wake of major hacks of Mumsnet and Ashley Madison

People in the UK are deeply concerned about their privacy and being hacked, with searches for some security questions increasing dramatically over the past few years, according to Google search data shared exclusively with The Telegraph.

The search engine revealed that the security-related phrases with the largest increases in search traffic over the past five years are:

  • “Email been hacked” – up by over 5,000 per cent
  • “Phished account” – up by over 5,000 per cent
  • “Website scam check” – up by over 700 per cent
  • “Change my password” – up by over 300 per cent
  • “Identity theft protection” – up by over 250 per cent

People in the UK are also using Google to research a wide range of security issues. The top searches around online security in the UK are:

  • How secure is my password?
  • How do I change my gmail password?
  • How to find my phone
  • What is e safety?
  • How do I stay safe online
  • What is 2-step verification?
  • How does find my phone work?
  • What is the best internet security?
  • How do I enable 2-step verification?
  • How do I stay safe from online fraud?

“We know that privacy is a concern for many people who use the Internet. Cyber crime is on the rise and people are concerned about their privacy and being hacked,” said Laurian Clemence from Google UK.

“We do want people to know that we take their concerns very seriously. We also want them to feel safe in the knowledge that they have the power to update, change and share as much information as they want to. And we want to make this easy for everyone to understand.”

Google claims to have undergone a “quiet revolution” over the past six months, implementing a range of security and privacy measures designed to protect users of its services against hackers and give them more control over their personal data.

At its I/O developer conference in May, Google announced that the next version of Android, called “Marshmallow”, will make it easier for users to decide what information the apps on their phone can use, by giving them the opportunity to confirm or deny access in context.

For example, if you download WhatsApp on an Android device today, you will be asked to grant permission for WhatsApp to access your contacts, calendar, location, photos, camera, microphone and more. This can seem very invasive.

With Android Marshmallow, users will not be requested to give any permissions at the point of download. It is only when they try to send a voice memo, for example, that they will be asked to grant access to their microphone.

Then in June, Google launched a new privacy and security hub called “My Account”, enabling users to control all of their Google privacy and security settings from one place.

Users can adjust their security settings for everyday Google activities, such as blocking specific advertisers from their search results, controlling the kind of personal information that is linked to their Google account and their stored location data.

They can also check the answers to frequently-asked questions, including whether Google sells your personal information and what it does with the collected data, as well as copy content from your account to be used in other services.

The hub also offers new Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup tools, which are designed to guide users through their most important privacy and security settings, and allow them to update and change their settings in Search, Maps, YouTube and other products.

For example, they can turn on and off settings such as “Web and App Activity”, which provides more relevant search results, or “Location History”, which enables Google Maps and Now to offer tips for a faster commute back home.

They can also keep track of and remove the apps and sites they have approved to connect to their account, or download all of their Google data to use it for another service, or to keep as an archive.

The new privacy and security measures have been introduced in the wake of several major hacks over the past year, targeting eBay, Sony and, most recently, Mumsnet and adultery website Ashley Madison . Google has also had its fair share of privacy controversies over the years.

According to a OnePoll survey commissioned by Google, over a quarter of UK respondents have either been been hacked or targeted for hacking in the last two years, and around a fifth have had their personal information used elsewhere without their express permission.

In an attempt to raise awareness of security issues and help people protect themselves online, Google’s privacy and security engineers will be visiting five cities across the UK over the next three to months – including Leeds, Birmingham, Boston, London and Manchester.

The engineers will tour the country to explain how Google’s privacy tools work, and share best practices in how to keep safer online, including two-step verification, easy ways to create stronger passwords, and password recovery options.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask Google any of the pressing questions they have always wanted to ask.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this, knowing so many people from cities across the UK are searching for ‘Am I being hacked?’, for example, shows there is a clear demand for more information on how to stay safe online,” said Ms Clemence.

“Our workshop will cover best practices directly from Google’s privacy and security experts on how they can safeguard their passwords, update their account settings, find a stolen device, and check where they are sharing their data in just two minutes, from one place.”

Anyone can sign up to attend a workshop here . Google will also start visiting schools from September onwards, and said it hopes to take the workshops to Europe if they prove to be successful in the UK.

What information does Google hold on me?

This article was written by Sophie Curtis from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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