The latest update to our Internet Statistics Compendium contains another comprehensive collection of key data from across the digital landscape, including primary research from ourselves and partners, as well as third party trends from a wealth of sources.

In recent months, there have been some fascinating stats published concerning security and privacy online from analysts as diverse as Statista, Global Web Index and Center for the Digital Future.

Today I wanted to pull this data together to try to gain a deeper understanding of what we consider insecure and intrusive in a digital world which is increasingly wise to our browsing habits and personal details.

27% of web traffic is malicious and non-human

Recent data published by Statista analysed 1.5bn visits across 20,000 global sites to see how much web traffic was human and what proportion was computer generated.

It might be surprising to some that most of the web traffic they analysed was in fact not generated by real users. 44% came from human site visitors, while the remaining 56% was considered non-human.

Of course, not all non-human traffic is untrustworthy or insecure. According to Statista’s data, however, half of non-human traffic is potentially malicious with a majority of that likely to be impersonators – bots faking sentience and striving to get users to click dodgy links.

What are internet consumers most concerned about online?

With more than a quarter of web traffic suspected to be malicious, do the concerns of internet users reflect the actual likelihood that a quarter of web activity comes from the web’s more malicious corners?

Recent US data from Center for the Digital Future looked in great depth at the worries of American internet consumers. When it comes to violations of privacy, corporations are the biggest concern with 53% of users concerned about corporations violating their privacy online.

Presumably this includes big well-known businesses such as Google and companies who are less than trustworthy.

It is perhaps expected, then, that the threat of actual people violating privacy of internet consumers was less of a concern. Still, 39% of users did admit to being concerned about other people violating their privacy online.

Perhaps most interesting was the level of concern US internet users admitted to having in regards to the government. 52% (almost the same percentage who had concerns about corporations) expressed concern about the US state violating their online privacy.

Many internet users are making special efforts to browse anonymously

The findings reported by Center for the Digital Future are also of note in the wake of recent worldwide research from Global Web Index looking at why users from certain markets are using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Overall, 28% of global internet users admit to using VPNs. The key reason for doing so in many markets is simply to browse anonymously, i.e. without the worry of being tracked by corporations or the government. 

In North America, 28% of VPN users are using these services for the above reason – not too far behind the leading markets in the MENA region where 31% are using VPNs to browse in secret.

Despite significant concerns, users are not keen to see more government restrictions online

Acknowledging Statista’s findings of how much malicious web traffic is moving around online, it could certainly be argued that much of the concern US consumers have is justified. Yet, it is certainly worth noting that the vast majority of those surveyed by Center for the Digital Future (71%) said they had never actually had their privacy violated online.

In addition, 56% disagree that the government should regulate the internet more than it does now. Perhaps, what consumers most want from surfing online is better access to online browsing with the easily changeable options of anonymity, minimal invasion of privacy and opt-in data-sharing for certain content as and when it fits them. 

There’s certainly something of a power struggle here, and it will be interesting to see how internet consumers continue to adapt and react to perceived and actual invasions of privacy from companies as well as governments on into 2015.

Luke Richards

Published 18 March, 2015 by Luke Richards

Luke Richards is a freelance writer and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his blog

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