More than half of Hong Kong residents would delete personal info from internet if they could: survey

More than half of Hong Kong residents would have their personal information deleted from the internet if they could, according to a survey by a cybersecurity company.

The poll was commissioned by NordVPN and conducted by digital insights gathering platform Cint from Aug. 19 to 25 in several countries. It polled 1,000 Hong Kong residents.

The study noted that while it is estimated that 93 percent of Hong Kong’s population are online, 55 percent would “delete themselves from the internet” if they could. 

When asked about the reason, 57 percent said they feel companies exploit their data to their advantage, while 49 percent fear being manipulated. Another 45 percent said they are afraid that someone will eventually hack their devices and 37 percent said they have no reason to have their name on the internet.

More than half (68 percent) said that they would most like their personal financial information to be deleted from the internet. Other information Hongkongers want removed from the internet include unflattering photos or videos (48 percent), embarrassing moments (46 percent), old dating or social media profiles​​​​ (40 percent) and previous employment histories (23 percent). 

“While removing yourself from the internet sounds like a good idea for those concerned with having their personal information exposed to the wrong entities, you have to ask yourself if wiping the slate totally clean is even possible in our digital-dominant world,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. 

“Our study also found that some would be in favor of a more practical approach because 62 percent would be in favor of paying to use the internet anonymously at all times.”

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For those who want to be anonymous when online and are willing to pay for it, the study revealed that 40 percent of Hong Kong residents would pay up to HK$800 (US$102), 15 percent would pay between HK$801 and HK$4,000, and 5 percent would fork out between HK$4,001 to HK$8,000 HKD to be anonymous. Two percent of respondents said they would pay even more.

“While we can hope to remove some information about ourselves online, only better online habits can help people in Hong Kong feel safer when they’re on the internet. Using more sophisticated passwords, trusted cybersecurity tools (such as a VPN, antivirus and password manager) and practicing a general awareness of threats will help people protect their most valuable information online for years to come,” said Markuson.