Internet of Things

From 'super excited' to 'scared as hell': Why users are so divided over IoT privacy concerns

A new Mozilla study found consumers are concerned about a lack of privacy due to a more connected world.

Consumers are divided in opinion over an Internet of Things (IoT)-driven connected future, according to The Mozilla Foundation, which released a survey on the topic on Wednesday.

Among the nearly 190,000 worldwide responders, Mozilla found a correlation between being technically proficient and optimism about IoT. The more savvy a responder considered themselves, the more optimistic they were about increased connectivity, and vice versa.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

For example, only 7% of all respondents said they were "scared as hell" about a more connected future—the least optimistic option available. But out of respondents identifying themselves as least tech savvy, that number jumps to 31%.

Overall, respondents weren't too excited about increased connectivity. When asked what aspect of a connected future they were most excited about, the top answer was "none of the above." Tech leaders may need to promote their products and services better to get consumers excited enough to purchase them.

Respondents found common ground over a feared loss of privacy. Around 45% of people labeled it as their top concern about an increasingly digital society. The more technically savvy a person was, the more they feared losing their privacy—54% of people who said they were very tech savvy cited privacy loss as their no. 1 concern.

They have reason to be concerned about privacy. In one notable situation—a murder case in Arkansas—police asked for recordings from an Amazon Echo in hopes it might have recorded part of the murder.

Mozilla's research could signal to tech leaders and manufacturers that consumer privacy should be protected if they want people to begin to fully embrace being more connected.

One-third of survey respondents said the responsibility of making secure devices and connections falls on tech leaders, while another third said privacy protection falls on the user. Around 20% said the government should be responsible for that.

For a user trying to figure out to keep themselves private, they're much more likely to trust a nonprofit's advice over the media or information from the government, the survey found.

The research also gave some information that could potentially be helpful in marketing IoT devices. Language-wise, respondents are less likely to understand terms such as "IoT" or "TOR," but 81% said they can explain what "connected devices" are to a friend.

The most optimistic countries—Brazil, Mexico, and India—were also the ones in which people were most likely to already own and use IoT tech, including smart TVs. Respondents in these countries are also more likely to own a smartphone over a laptop. The US, one of the least optimistic countries, was more likely to own wearable fitness trackers and Wi-Fi-connected thermostats, Mozilla found.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A new Mozilla survey found consumers are ready for mobile connectivity brought by the Internet of Things, but continue to be split in opinion about it due to privacy concerns.
  2. The more tech savvy a consumer is, the more likely that consumer is to be optimistic about increased connectivity.
  3. Business leaders dealing with IoT should work on increasing and promoting privacy options to help calm consumers' concerns.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/chombosan

About Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth is a Multiplatform Reporter at TechRepublic.

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