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Millennials stand apart from other Americans in preferring faster Internet access to safer Internet access, according to a new survey.
When digital-authentication firm SecureAuth asked people from all age groups whether they would rather be safer online or browse faster online, 57 percent of Americans chose security and 43 percent chose speed. But among millennials, the results were almost reversed: 54 percent chose speed over security.
“Surprisingly, most millennials don’t think they’re at risk,” SecureAuth CEO Craig Lund said in a statement to the Daily Dot. “They have grown up being so connected on so many social media sites, it never occurred to them that the danger is out there—not to mention that the preference for being connected and involved can often take precedence over the potential risk.”
Young people are also more willing than the overall population to share sensitive information over public Wi-Fi connections, which are notoriously insecure as they allow anyone on the network to analyze and intercept passing traffic. While a clear majority (57 percent) of Americans told SecureAuth that they transmitted such information over public Wi-Fi, nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) of millennials said they did so.
The SecureAuth survey’s findings track with other data on millennials’ cybersecurity knowledge and behavior. A surprising 44 percent of millennials believe their data is generally safe from hackers, and millennials are more likely than members of other age groups to share account passwords with friends.
“There are new stories of breaches almost every day and millennials need to understand that the actions they take online have serious ramifications,” said Lund. “Attackers will go after everything from credit card information to health care records—once millennials understand this risk, we can work together so that being connected and secure aren’t mutually exclusive.”
Americans overall are paying more attention to some aspects of digital security. An October 2015 study by the wireless industry’s trade group found that 61 percent of Americans use passwords on their smartphones and 58 percent use them on their tablets, compared to 50 percent and 48 percent, respectively, in 2012.
The most common piece of personal information that Americans filled out online while using public Wi-Fi was their street address, followed by their credit card and their account passwords.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature and focus of online harassment and stalking, women value security over speed by a wider margin than do men, with a 24-percentage-point split (62 percent for security versus 38 percent for speed), compared to a 2-percentage-point split among men (51 percent versus 49 percent).
Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.