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Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants and Online Safety

I had thought the fact that we have now passed the four-week event horizon for Christmas would be the most shocking statistic to bludgeon my consciousness this week. I was wrong.  

In truth, I should not have been surprised; one of the first things I was taught by Ray Dedman, the seasoned chief reporter who served as my mentor when I started out on my journalism career 30-something years ago, was never to assume anything as it would “make an ass out of you and me.”  

The statistic that trumped the Christmas countdown is contained in this issue’s special report, specifically in our story on online fraud. Within that, you can take your pick of figures that run from the surprising to the eye watering.   

How about the fact that EY expects an increase in e-commerce fraud next year of anywhere from 150% to 300%? That is not a typo. It is true, of course, that as more people switch to online shopping, so the opportunities for online crimes to be committed multiply, but even so...

Then there is the idea that more than 80% of consumers trust that businesses are taking appropriate steps to protect their personal information, even while the majority of businesses and business executives see fraud as a growing concern.  

But here is the stat that brought me up short. Every two years EY conducts its Global Fraud Survey. When Hungarian business leaders were quizzed in early 2018, just 10% of them said they would ask for the deletion of their personal data stored by businesses, while almost 50% of the companies said at the time that they were not ready to delete such data, despite it being an obligation set out by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force on May 25 of that year.  

In some cases, the growth in online crime is down to generational differences. I was born in 1967, when what computers there were took up entire rooms, and were always depicted in films as looking like oversized reel-to-reel tape players; younger readers can look those up on the internet. In other words, I am not a digital native (brilliantly translated from Hungarian into “digital aboriginal” in one press release we received this week). Indeed, when I joined my first newspaper in 1986, we still used typewriters (again, I direct younger readers to their favored online encyclopedia), but we soon moved to computers; effectively, I grew up professionally in an industry that was an early digital adopter.  

The generation before mine had no such experience. They have an excuse for making what amount to elemental online errors that, sadly, put them at risk of becoming the victims of online fraud. Today’s business leaders should, not to put too fine a point on it, know better. Because, if CEOs can’t – or won’t – look after their own data, why the heck should any customer, let alone 80% of them, trust those same  business leaders with their own personal information?  

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief