‘Safety first’ Scots are most digitally protective citizens in the UK

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People in Scotland take more precautions to protect their online privacy than residents in other parts of the UK, according to new analysis* by The Carnegie UK Trust.

The philanthropic organisation says that Scots are most likely to use a passcode or password on their phone and to turn off phone location services, which track their movements. They are also more likely to verify the accuracy of information they receive than people in any other UK nation.

The Carnegie UK Trust data shows that 76 per cent of Scots use a passcode or password to prevent others accessing their phones. This figure falls to just 65 per cent in Northern Ireland, and 70 per cent in England.

Furthermore, 60 per cent of Scots turn off their phone location services – significantly higher than most other parts of the UK. Location data on phones is most commonly used by commercial companies to track behaviour and provide targeted advertising, but it can also be used by criminals for identity theft and use of location services can also increase the risk to your personal security**.

Internet users in Scotland are also cautious about how they use public wifi networks. Only one in four Scots (23 per cent) believe it is safe to carry out online banking via public wifi, for example – nearly half the figure in Ireland and significantly lower than those in England and Wales.

The research also revealed that there are stark differences in behaviour between generations. Older people are much less likely to take security measures to protect their mobile phones with just half of over 55s in Scotland (53%) using a passcodes to protect their smartphone – well below the national average. Younger Scots are three times more likely to share photos online and twice as likely to have public social media profiles compared to over 55s.

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy for The Carnegie UK Trust, said: “Fundamental questions about how we manage our security and privacy online are increasingly pressing. If we’re to maximise the benefits of the digital world and mitigate its risks then it’s vital that we are all safe, effective and confident in how we use technology.

“It is concerning that so many older people still do not take basic measures to protect their privacy such as using a passcode on their phone. In contrast the privacy risks for younger people are relatively well known and centre around how they choose to share content on social media.”

“The development of digital skills linked to managing our privacy and security needs to be given real priority and become much more embedded across a whole range of public services.”

The findings come as part of a wider piece of research from The Carnegie Trust exploring UK citizens’ digital savviness.