More than one in two citizens of the European Union are concerned about the misuse of their online data by fraudsters and cybercriminals, a new EU study has found.
The news comes ahead of the publication of the Commission’s Security Union Strategy, which is due to be presented by the Commission on Friday (24 July) and will include efforts to bolster the EU’s resilience against online security threats.
The plans were originally due to be released earlier this week but faced a setback as the college of Commissioners’ meeting was postponed.
As part of a recent survey undertaken by the EU’s agency for fundamental rights published on Wednesday, an average of 55% of respondents said they are concerned that the information they share online and on social media, could be maliciously accessed.
After cybercriminals, around one in three citizens (31%) are apprehensive about their data being accessed by businesses without their permission, followed by foreign governments (30%), the research, based on responses of 35,000 people across the EU, UK & North Macedonia, found.
Concern among European citizens with regards to the safety of their data comes a week after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) struck down the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement, which attempts to guarantee the secure transmission of EU data to the United States.
The ECJ concluded that the Privacy Shield does not offer sufficient protection for EU citizens’ data when sent to the US, because of the latter’s surveillance laws covering foreign information. The ruling highlighted once again the cultural and political clash between the European privileging of privacy against the US’s rigorous surveillance regime.
More broadly, as part of Wednesday’s survey, a quarter of those taking part in the research cited concerns with online banking fraud. On the subject of cyber-harassment, those in Germany have been impacted the most, with 23% of respondents from the country noting that they had experienced some form of abuse.
The country, which has recently taken up the rotating chairmanship of the EU Council presidency, has recently clamped down on hate speech with additional measures outlined in the Network Implementation Act (NetzDG).
These now include the obligation for social networks to not only delete potentially criminal content but also report it to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).
Elsewhere, the Commission is set to publish later this week a communication on combating child sexual abuse, which will feature a prominent element on how digital companies can better play a role in stamping out online networks that engage in such illegalities.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]