Online privacy or security concerns have stopped millions of people in the United States from using the internet to pay bills, shop or post on social media, according to a large government survey.
The data from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found that 29 percent of homes surveyed had not conducted financial transactions online because of privacy or security concerns.
Twenty-six percent had not shopped online because of those concerns. The same number of people reported not posting on social media because of the concerns. Another 19 percent declined to express a controversial opinion online because of it.
The results come from 2015 data gathered by the Census Bureau on 41,000 homes that use the internet. NTIA said the move toward broader online encryption could help build up online trust that is keeping segments of the population from engaging online.
"NTIA will continue to analyze relevant data, as well as potential policies—such as encouraging the widespread deployment of strong encryption and other security measures—that could help build trust in the Internet and stimulate the free flow of information and commerce online," the administration wrote in a blog post.
The survey found that people were less likely to engage in those online activities if they were the victims of a data breach in the past year. The numbers of people who reported avoiding some online activity shot up by about 10 percentage points if they had experienced a breach.
The survey found that 19 million households had been affected by some type of online security breach in the past year.
Sixty-three percent of homes expressed concerns about identity theft, followed by 45 percent who expressed concern about banking fraud.
Between 18 percent and 23 percent of people highlighted each of the following concerns: data collection by online companies, loss of personal control over personal data and data collection by the government.
The survey found that people concerned about government data collection had a higher likelihood of saying they avoided expressing controversial opinions online.