Hey, young people! Did you leave traces in a cloud service?

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We studied consumers’ attitudes towards cloud services: for example, how people in different countries use Facebook and Twitter, and what they think about the safety of these services. Market research company Taloustutkimus collected data from six countries for us, providing us with a nice set of data for comparison. All research participants were over 18 years of age, and came from Finland, Italy, the UK, France, Japan and the USA. The youngest age group in the study was those aged 18 to 24.

As soon as we started to analyse the data, we were stunned: are young Finnish people really this naive? At first, we thought that young Finns (aged 18 to 24) are ignorant of the traces and personal data they leave in various services, available for anybody to take advantage of. How gullible!

At this stage, I started to discuss the use of cloud services with my own teenage children rather sternly. However, they did not seem too worried about it and advised me to take a chill pill. However, this was just the initial stage of data analysis. After a more in-depth analysis, it became evident that the initial interpretation was not rock solid.

If anything, young Finns seem to have a pioneering attitude. They know what cloud services are and consider themselves old hands at using them. Almost 60 per cent of young people in Finland describe themselves as experienced, compared to the 10 per cent of their Japanese counterparts. It seems that young Finns have a healthy level of self-belief in this respect.

Based on our study, it seems that they are well aware of how many traces of their activity remain in the cloud services they use. They simply are not too bothered about it.

Carefree services for users, please!

Do they think that no one is interested in their data that much anyway, and with so much data out there, who cares? Hard to say. But what I can say is that everyone should be able to share this carefree attitude. An average Joe should not lose any sleep over their privacy settings. Services should be designed so that users do not have to worry about using them – yet another argument in favour of secure European cloud services.

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This merry group of 16-to-18-year-olds from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is not too worried about the traces they leave in cloud services. The most popular services among those young Finns (aged between 18 and 24) who use cloud services are YouTube (100%), Facebook (93%), WhatsApp (80%) and Spotify (73%).

I’ll wrap things up with a funny example about carefree attitudes. If you think about it, we all act the same way young Finns do. This is a completely fictional story, but so true. A colleague of mine called Katri came up with it during a lunch break at the Trusted data management seminar.

Imagine having lunch in a restaurant that has an open plan kitchen. You can watch the kitchen staff cooking while you eat. All of a sudden, you see the chef sneezing and wiping his nose with his hand. Not missing a beat, he then continues to prepare the food. After witnessing this, you may lose your appetite and seriously consider whether you want to eat in this particular establishment at all. Had you not seen the incident, you would dig into your meal quite happily. As long as there is no reason to suspect that something is amiss, it is often easier to think that everything is fine and maintain a trusting and carefree attitude.

That’s it for today. I will share more specifics about other countries later. Let me know what you think!

Aino Mensonen, Senior Scientist

About the study: Cloud use soars – but security concerns still flying high

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