Incogni: Men and women are equally unaware of how to protect their data

Incogni survey of  2310 Americans revealed a gender gap in online privacy and security understanding. Nevertheless, both men and women fail to take the necessary precautions to protect their private data, leaving them exposed to an increased risk of cybercrimes. 

Key findings:

  • 80% of women vs 70% of men don’t know about services that can help them protect or remove their data 
  • Only 3 out of 10 women surveyed have heard of data brokers (or how they handle user data) vs. 4 out of 10 men.
  • Less than half of women are not aware their personal information could be sold by private companies vs 38% of men.

9 out of 10 Americans have experienced attempts of scams, and 8 out of 10 experienced personal data breaches. From identity theft to phishing attempts, the number of digital fraud attempts in the U.S is on the rise. Understanding how gender influences online security behaviors can help close the existing knowledge gap and decrease instances of cybercrime and harassment women face online. 

Lower online security awareness among women isn’t because of lower risk levels. On the contrary, according to the US Department of Justice, women are more likely to be victims of identity theft than men. Young, low-income African American women, in particular, are at disproportionate risk of falling victim to bank fraud. Women and girls are also more likely victims of cyberstalking at 69%, and 85% say they have witnessed gender-based online harassment, according to research conducted by The Economist

Incogni has identified 3 key differences in attitudes towards online privacy between men and women. Half of the women compared to two-thirds of the men know that their personal information is being collected by companies online. Only 3 out of 10 women surveyed have heard of data brokers (or how they handle user data) vs. 4 out of 10 men. Another worrying finding is that 80% of the women don’t know about services that can help them protect or remove their data compared to 70% of the men. 

A recent survey conducted by cybersecurity company Surfshark indicates that women are less likely to know or use cybersecurity tools. Fewer women have heard of VPN, private browsing, or ad blocker, among others. 

“Low awareness level indicates there is very little knowledge about cybersecurity and how to act safely online. Teaching girls at a young age about cybersecurity could help empower women to protect their online privacy and safety,” says Darius Belejevas, Head of Incogni

The usage of fewer cybersecurity tools by women can have serious implications for their privacy and safety online, especially with the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. Women across the country have been experiencing instances of prosecutors using personal data such as location, search history, app use, and even private texts to enforce anti-abortion laws. With a history of the invasion of privacy on the basis of presumptions of criminal intent of people seeking public assistance, this could affect marginalized groups such as low-income mothers the most. 

As it stands, 62% of Incogni’s survey respondents (men and women) never asked any company to remove their private information, despite the dangers.

With the mass data collection online and the absence of stringent federal data privacy regulations in the US, the private data of Americans is left exposed and people are left with two options when it comes to deleting their personal data. Some individually reach out to data brokers or companies that store their personal information and request their data to be deleted, or they can use the services of privacy agencies that automatically find and remove their data from the internet on their behalf.

It is the responsibility of all of us to protect our personal information and data from being breached or leaked in any way, to keep it safe from computer-related crimes. All it’s needed is just to make a few changes to your device and account to prevent third parties from collecting your data, also it will help to ensure better privacy.

Considering that so many brokers hold your private information, keeping it safe or protected from being compromised online can seem like an impossible task. Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect it:

  • check your credit reports regularly, 
  • use strong passwords, 
  • reduce paper bills and establish online statements from banks, 
  • shred old documents, 
  • use secure websites and Wi-Fi, 
  • don’t carry sensitive documents unless necessary, 
  • watch for phishing emails for sensitive information, 
  • and beware of unknown callers.

Methodology: survey of Internet users from 6 U.S. states: CA, CO, FL, NY,  TX,  VA (N=2310), May 2022