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This article was published on September 8, 2010

65% of us are online crime victims, but are we hypocrites?

65% of us are online crime victims, but are we hypocrites?

A new report makes some interesting observations about the state of criminal behaviour online and argues that while many of us feel vicimized by it, we’re often hypocrites who happily commit dishonest acts online ourselves.

Norton’s Cybercrime Report classes online crime as covering a wide gamut of activity such as viruses, identity theft, online hacking, harassment, scams, phishing and sexual predation.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • The report says that 65% of the 7000 people questioned had been a victim of online crime. 58% of us feel anger as a result, 29% feel fear 29%, 26 % helplessness and 78% guil as a result.
  • The most victimized people were in China (83%), Brazil and India (tie at 76%) and the US (73%).
  • 80% of us don’t expect cybercriminals to be brought to justice.
  • People don’t tend to contact the police, instead 48% will contact their bank, 34% will contact their email provider or the website involved. Swedish and Japanese victims were the most likely to turn to the police.

This is where it gets really interesting. Norton’s Marian Merritt argues that “While we’re besieged by online cybercrime, we often engage in forms of online theft, misrepresentation, defacement and simple lying without recognizing our own hypocrisy.” Examples?

  • Nearly half of respondents felt it “legal” to download a single music track, album or movie without paying.
  • 30% of people admitted to having taken someone else’s picture and edited, emailed or posted it online without first getting permission. That’s not necessarily illegal but it’s perhaps unethical in certain situations.
  • 1 in 4 respondents had secretly viewed someone else’s email or browser history.
  • Despite Facebook leading the charge in a trend that’s seen the increasing use of real names online, all may not be as it seems. A third of respondents had used a fake online identity, 45% lie about personal details (age, sex, income, etc), with the practie particularly common in Germany, China, Brazil and India. The UK, by contrast, saw just 18% using a false online ID and 33% lying about personal details.

While the study has some interesting findings, its assertion that Internet users are hyprocites seems a little over the top. It seems to equate genuine crime with more general, and less harmful, dishonest behaviour. By Norton’s standards, someone who has been mugged in the street is a hypocrite for publishing a blog about the experience under a fake name.

What this study shows is that the Internet is just as much a dog-eat-dog world as the offline world and that people are learning to adapt to it as time goes by. This is a process that includes learning the most honest, decent way of behaving with others while we’re online – does that really make us hyprocitical?

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