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The Internet Harm Research Report – what does it all mean?

9 Oct 2018


The regulator for communications services – Ofcom, have commissioned research with the objective of quantifying concerns about, and reporting experience of, online harm in four key categories including; content that people view, read or listen to online, interactions with other users, data privacy, hacking and security.


Summary of Key Findings


The research showed that 79% of UK adult internet users have concerns about aspects of going online. In particular;


  • 66% are concerned about content that people view, read or listen to online

  • 58% are concerned about data/Privacy

  • 55% are concerned about interactions with other users

  • 54% are concerned about hacking and security


Online Protection of Children and Adults


A wide range of concerns were raised – with protection of children a key area. 59% had concerns about the protection of children and of that percentage, 32% of those concerns were in relation to data and privacy including personal data being processed without consent and personal information not being stored securely. 29% of those concerned were concerned about hacking and security including fraud and malicious software.


Almost half of adult internet users indicated that they had experienced harm online. Data Privacy was the highest category of concern with spam emails and communications being the most harmful thing adults experienced on the internet closely followed by targeted marketing and malicious software.


The research indicates that of all the categories of harm, 16 to 24 year olds were the most likely to experience harm when using the internet in particular, when using social media and email which the research found are the main sources of reported harm.


Personal Data and Privacy


The main findings of the research in relation to personal data and privacy show that:


  • Two thirds of adult internet users were aware of data privacy options on social media sites

  • A quarter of adult internet users found it difficult to control what happens to their personal data

  • The most-cited reasons for not changing privacy settings was that there was no need or it was too much hassle


Organisations should be mindful of the concerns outlined by Ofcom’s research and make their privacy and data security policies available to the public. If you require assistance in drafting GDPR compliant policies, please do not hesitate to contact Terri Leigh at or on 0191 232 0283.

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