Wi-Fi Worries: Consumers Use Public Services Despite Privacy Fears

Germans are the most paranoid consumers when it comes to privacy. Americans are less so, and the British are even less concerned, according to a new study by BullGuard.

But all three nationalities use public Wi-Fi, despite fears that it isn’t safe. And they don’t install protections that could prevent financial disaster. 

Specifically, 62% of Germans are concerned about their privacy, as are 53% of Americans and 48% of British consumers.

Germans have a more heightened awareness of GDPR than Americans. But the British are also subjected to almost daily reports on the subject.

Drilling down, 71% of Germans polled believe search engines such as Google are tracking their online activities, compared with 63% of the British and 56% of Americans.

Germans are also more likely to believe online retailers like Amazon are tracking them — at 61% compared with 54% of the British and 46% of Americans. And they are more prone to have this suspicion about internet browsers.



However, Germans are less likely to fear their internet service providers — only 44% say their ISPs are tracking them, falling behind the British (58%) and Americans (53%).

English speakers are more concerned about government tracking — 55% of Brits suspect their government is doing this, along with 52% of Americans and only 34% of Germans. (The German stat was collected in a separate question). To some extent, British and American consumers also fear the other nationality’s government.

The study is not clear on whether consumers connect mere data collection with evil intent. But it does show that 69% of Germans use antivirus protection, more than the British (62%) and Americans (48%).

Despite their fears, consumers are taking risks by using public Wi-Fi without protections.

Vast swaths of people — 74% of Americans, 80% of the British, and 86% of Germans — are not using VPN (Virtual Private Network) when accessing public Wi-Fi.  Yet 62% of Germans, 53% of Americans and 48% of the British believe their data is insecure on public Wi-Fi.

Perhaps more alarming, 19% of Americans, 17% of the British and 14% of Germans have use a credit card when connected to public Wi-Fi. Yet 65% fear having their financial information hacked.

That disconnect between fear and behavior appears to be the main point of this survey. After all, BullGuard is a security firm that offers VPN and various other protections.

“Consumers are playing Russian Roulette with their personal data and privacy, opting for convenience over safety when using public Wi-Fi,” states Paul Lipman, CEO of BullGuard.

Lipman contends that these consumers are “risking financial theft, identity theft, account fraud and more in their quest to use public Wi-Fi.”

BullGuard surveyed 5,000 consumers, 2,000 each in the U.S. and U.K. and 1,000 in Germany.


2 comments about "Wi-Fi Worries: Consumers Use Public Services Despite Privacy Fears".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 12, 2019 at 5:51 p.m.

    Now, why would the CEO of a security firm perhaps stretch the truth about threats to privacy? Maybe to drum up business with skittish consumers. I might be more inclined to trust a survey conducted by a nonprofit privacy-advocacy group, although they also might have a bias in the wording or sampling.

  2. Mindy Hull from Mercury Global Partners, September 13, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.

    Hi Douglas - My firm is the PR agency of record for BullGuard in the US. BullGuard commissioned the consumer survey but did not conduct it themselves. The survey was conducted by OnePoll in the US and UK markets, and by Ipsos in Germany. With all due respect, while BullGuard is in the cybersecurity business, the company is not stretching the truth with respect to threats about privacy risks related to using public Wi-Fi. There are a number of articles online that speak to this very issue including this one - - which details how easy it is for someone to hack your laptop or phone while you're connected to public Wi-Fi without a VPN. All it takes is a simple device. BullGuard commissioned the consumer survey to raise awareness and help educate the market as most consumers are not aware of the very real security risks they take when connecting to public Wi-Fi. I'm happy to share the raw data with you from the consumer survey if you are interested. 

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