An increasing focus in digital communications for businesses, individuals and governments worldwide is the management of digital information and identity. In an environment of rapid technological change, consumer online activity is also evolving rapidly.
The aim of the Digital footprints and identities research was to understand behaviour and attitudes to the creation, use and management of an individual’s digital identity and the management of digital information online. It also aimed to identify what triggers an individual’s willingness to provide personal information online.
The research finds that Australians balance the risks and rewards of engaging in the online world and put considerable thought in to how their personal data is used and shared online.
Key findings of the research, which included qualitative and quantitative stages, included:
- Australians have a large number of unique logins and passwords combinations—most (65 per cent) manage between five and 50
- internet users are creating distinct ’transactional‘, ‘social’, and ‘professional’ identities and adopting different strategies for using these identities
- research participants placed a high degree of value on being able to maintain a degree of anonymity and control over their personal information.
Australians are more willing to disclose information where they see certain triggers for trust. These include:
- knowing and trusting the organisation in the offline world
- recognising an encryption symbol (like a padlock) or similar security assurance on the site
- if the site looks professional
- if the information required is seen as necessary
- if the site is based in Australia.
Older users were more likely to say they coped with unwanted requests for personal information by not giving information or not using a supplier. Younger users were more likely to say they would give inaccurate information or supply an email address they did not use or was invalid.
For many, providing information that was inaccurate, or withholding information not considered necessary, provided a degree of pseudonymity and anonymity, which can be a way to manage online identities. However, this has implications for those who collect or aggregate data based on digital footprints.
A majority of quantitative survey respondents were aware of facilities that enable logging in to third-party services through an existing digital identity, such as a webmail or social media account. Despite this high awareness, less than one in four had used these services. Many had reservations about the security of the credentials or personal information they provided to a third-party login service.
Internet users also saw a role for government in educating them about managing their digital information generated by using the internet. They also saw government encouraging providers to promote safe use practices.