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Canadians less proactive in protecting themselves online: global poll

Lights on an internet switch are lit up as with users in an office in Ottawa, on February 10, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

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Lights on an internet switch are lit up as with users in an office in Ottawa, on February 10, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

TORONTO - Canadians are more concerned about their online privacy than many of their global counterparts and yet they're also less likely to take proactive measures to secure their personal information, suggests a new study.

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians polled said they believed they had less privacy online than they did a year ago, according to a report by the IT company EMC, which conducted online surveys with 15,000 web users in 15 countries.

Globally, the average was 59 per cent.

Canadians were the second-least likely to say that they'd be willing to trade some of their privacy for "easier access to information and knowledge," behind only the German-born respondents.

About 85 per cent of the Canadians polled said they believed it will become more difficult to cling onto a safe degree of privacy online in the next five years, versus 81 per cent of all respondents.

But Canadians admitted they could do more to protect themselves on the Internet.

Nearly seven in 10 said they did not regularly change their online passwords, versus the overall average of 62 per cent.

One in three said they didn't worry about changing their privacy settings when joining social networks, which was in line with the global average.

And about four in 10 said they didn't have a password protecting their cellphone from being accessed, compared to 39 per cent of all the respondents.

Canadians admitted they were sometimes lax with their online security even though 56 per cent said they had already been a victim of a data breach, which was two percentage points higher than the global average.

A majority of the poll's respondents said they were unsatisfied with efforts by their government leaders to help keep their data safe online.

Just 41 per cent of those polled around the world said they thought their government was working hard enough to protect them online, while 45 per cent of Canadians said the same.

An overwhelming majority of Canadians, 92 per cent, said they believed it should be against the law for Internet companies to sell their data without opt-in consent, while the global average was slightly lower at 87 per cent.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

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