As digital booms, ease often outweighs safety concerns

During the pandemic, many Canadians overlooked privacy issues in favour of convenience online, finds IBM.
Online shopping

A new survey from IBM Security examining consumers’ digital behaviours during the pandemic finds that amid booming online activity Canadians are prioritizing convenience over safety and security when creating new online accounts – with implications for themselves and brands.

With society becoming increasingly accustomed to digital-first interactions, the March study of 22,000 respondents (including 1,000 Canadians) conducted by Morning Consult found that preferences for convenience often outweighed security and privacy concerns among individuals surveyed – leading to poor choices around passwords and other cybersecurity behaviours.

In Canada, the average person created five new online accounts during the pandemic (seven among people under 35), with the most popular purposes being shopping/retail, food services and video conferencing. And 56% of people do not plan to delete or deactivate any new accounts following the pandemic.

The report also highlights the importance of having a strong user experience strategy. More than a third of Canadians report giving up on an online purchase, application or transaction based on negative experiences signing up (41%), logging in (35%) or completing payment (34%). And overall, 59% of Canadians expect to spend less than five minutes setting up a new digital account.

The uptick in online activity and digital account creation has left many consumers more vulnerable to cyber threats, IBM found, as many adopt practices that prioritize convenience and ease over safety and security.

For example, 74% of Canadians were found to reuse the same login as for other accounts at least some of the time, while 36% always or mostly reuse the same credentials. In spite of perceptions that older Canadians tend to be less technologically literate than younger demos, 22% of millennials and 14% of Gen Zers were found to be more likely to always reuse the same credentials versus 8% of Baby Boomers.

And while Canadians still care about online privacy and security – for instance, a large majority (70%) would remove permission for an application to track behaviour if the app were tracking activity across other apps and websites – many view safety as secondary to convenience.

This finding is highlighted by the fact that 24% of Canadians and 36% of Gen Zers would rather place and pay for an order digitally than go to a physical location or call, even if they had concerns about the website or app’s safety or privacy. What’s more, 30% of respondents have never decided against downloading a new app or creating a new account due to concern over its security and privacy policies during the pandemic.

With many users overlooking security concerns for the sake of convenience, the burden of security falls more heavily on the companies providing services across financial services, groceries, retail and restaurants, according to IBM.

Some businesses are in a better position to leverage the trust consumers already place in their sectors when it comes to protecting privacy. Overall, 79% of Canadians trust financial institutions to protect their personal or sensitive information and 75% trust healthcare organizations. Meanwhile, less than 70% of Canadians trust shopping/retail, food service, large tech companies, entertainment and exercise and wellness companies – with trust lowest for social media companies, at 51%.