Time spent online increases, although safe use concerns on the rise

08 February 2018 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Seven out of ten UK consumers are worried that the information they share via digital devices will lead to a compromise of their privacy, according to a new study. Despite this perceived risk, however, people are increasing their use of the internet, with nearly a fifth spending more than 41 hours per week online.

A new EY survey of 2,500 UK respondents has revealed that consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, while the technology itself is seen in an increasingly negative light. However, interest in streaming online services continues to rise, meaning that users of the internet spend longer on the global network, and offer a greater deal of personal information.

The amount of time spent online has continued to creep up, with around 19% of respondents saying that they now use the internet for more than 41 hours per week. This is an increase from 17% in 2016. Those using the internet for between 21 and 40 hours also increased, rising to 39%. In line with this, the number of respondents using the internet between 1 and 20 hours continued to fall, decreasing from 46% to 42%.

Time spent online

EY’s research also revealed that internet use has outstripped television watching, with 56% saying that they spend more time on the internet than watching TV, up from 49% in 2016. However, traditional television mediums continue to draw large audiences, with 46% saying they continue to watch normal broadcast channels.

In addition, users are growing less interested in new devices, with 29% of households agreeing that they are ‘very interested in new gadgets and tended to purchase them before everybody else’, a drop off from 34% in 2016. Increased concern around the overuse of devices  is also noted, with what is good for society and what is good for businesses seen as increasingly at odds when it comes to digital products and services.

Users are taking a more discretionary approach to internet services, with 23% of respondents saying that they only access online services when they have a specific need. Furthermore, the number of users only using a very limited number of websites has increased sharply, up from 30% in 2016 to 38% last year, as the likes of social media giants Facebook and multifaceted corporation Google become ‘one-stop-shops’ which offer a variety of different services and ways to access content. Users are also increasingly reducing their use of the internet, with 41% actively seeking time away from their smartphones and other internet-enabled devices, which increases to 50% for the 25-34 year old group.

Privacy concerns

The study also highlighted that customers increasingly see ISPs as utilities, up to 77%, while they too prefer the stability of their services over the relative speed on offer. The research also notes that users are increasingly seeing the internet as functional, rather than a source of entertainment – with 45% saying that they see the internet as very important in terms of working or running a business from home, a 4% increase on the previous year.

Privacy issues are increasingly on the radar of users, with 71% citing concern around disclosing financial and personal information online – even from so called ‘trusted’ brands. Noting an increase from 61% in 2016 and 53% in 2015. This furthers recent studies, which suggest that GDPR-related trust issues are likely to hit TV, phone and internet providers most, with the landmark privacy legislation enabling consumers to take back control of personal information that has, until now, been ruthlessly exploited by such groups.