British Columbians are worried about cybersecurity but they’re also more likely than other Canadians to share their debit card personal identification numbers with others and take other risks that could leave them open to identity theft and other fraud.
These are among the findings of a survey released today by TD Canada Trust in conjunction with Fraud Prevention Month in Canada.
Visa Canada released its own survey, this one conducted by Ipsos Reid that found young Canadians, those aged 18 to 30 are the most likely to share too much personal information on social networking sites — information such as birthdates, home addresses and phone numbers that provide lucrative pickings for identity thieves, phishing expeditions and other online fraud.
Today’s releases come the week after Norton, the security company, released its top riskiest Canadian cities for cybercrime risk rankings. The polls and rankings all add up to a lot of scary headlines and ones Simon Fraser University communication professor Peter Chow-White suggest may be designed more for advertising and brand awareness than for research.
“I think it is to put a discourse of anxiety and fear into the public sphere,” he said. “They are all framed around risk, not safety.”
Chow-White suggests the practice of companies commissioning surveys and circulating them amongst the media creates a sense of insecurity and anxiety about online security.
“That’s what advertising does,” he said. “It’s trying to create a sense of anxiety amongst people for needing to do something, whether it’s white teeth, new tires or anything.
“This is just another episode in the long history of advertisers and companies creating market share, creating a market for their products.”
Chow-White points out that in all the survey press releases, the tips or suggestions for cyber security mostly lead back to the company that commissioned the survey.
Chow-White is of course right. We in the media hardly ever see a survey we resist reporting on. And while some are of the heavily academic and scientific variety, able to withstand the scrutiny of peer review, others are hardly more scientific than the ‘what do you think of this’ polls that I sometimes put on blog posts and still others fall somewhere in between.
Newsrooms get press releases trumpeting survey results pretty much on a daily basis. Some are tried and true favourites — like the one that measures how many people text from the bathroom, a tired headline but one that nonetheless is paraded out perennially. Or this year’s variation from eBay promoting eBay as a holiday shopping source:” “Did you know your friends were buying presents in the bathroom?”
Depending on the editor and whether it’s a slow news day, surveys get picked up and make headlines in media both online and off.
Do they serve a purpose other than to build brand awareness or provide fodder for techno trivia?
I thought about that as I considered today’s releases from Canada Trust and Visa Canada. Are surveys about the risk of fraud prompting people to pay more attention to their security, both online and off?
According to TD Canada Trust’s poll more British Columbian’s are taking steps to protect themselves from traditional forms of fraud, but there’s no telling whether it because they’ve been reading stories from such survey results. Some 86 per cent of people shield their PINs at banking machines compared to 77 per cent last year. I know I do ever since I wrote a story about fraudsters installing temporary cameras at ATMs to capture your PIN as your punch it in.
Some 27 per cent have spoken to their bank about reducing their withdrawal limit compared to 19 per cent who said that last year. In my case I lowered the limit on a credit card not because I read the stats but because I was the victim of credit card fraud — a circumstance that may lead many consumers to rethink their security measures.
However, the anxiety over risk hasn’t reached everyone in British Columbia. We’re the most likely of any consumers in Canada to carry our debit or credit card PIN in a wallet along with the card. Clearly we’re not frightened enough by the stats.
Visa Canada’s survey was also all about risk. Not surprisingly seniors were the least likely to engage in risky online behaviour — at least when it comes to over sharing – while young adults were most likely to take those risks. Young adults are also most likely to lend their bank or debit card to others.
What do you think? Should surveys commissioned by companies be consigned to the junk filter or do you think they serve a purpose?