Senior Citizens' Attitudes and Perceptions towards Personal Data Privacy
1. A survey of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner
for Personal Data (“PCPD”) found that senior citizens recognized the
importance of personal data privacy, but had inadequate knowledge of
personal data protection, e.g. they did not know under what
circumstances they should provide their personal data; they did not
know how to set passwords; they did not know that they should pay
attention to the Personal Information Collection Statement before
providing their personal data.
2. The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Mr.
Roderick B. Woo said, “There is no age limit in the Personal Data
(Privacy) Ordinance. It protects personal data of all Hong Kong
citizens, including senior citizens. Nowadays, personal data are
like important assets. Losses will be incurred if such data are
stolen or misused. The elderly are vulnerable to harm as they
rely much on others in their daily life and they have little awareness
of personal data protection. By this survey, we hope that we can
understand more about the perceptions and needs of the elderly so as to
formulate proper education and promotion strategies to enhance their
ability to protect their personal data.”
3. To probe into senior citizens’ attitudes towards
personal data privacy and their use of the Internet, the PCPD has
committed the Sau Po Ageing Centre of the University of Hong Kong to
conduct a survey on the “Senior Citizens’ Attitudes and Perceptions
towards Personal Data Privacy”. The survey was conducted in April
2010 by way of filling in questionnaires through one-to-one
interviews. A total of 400 senior citizens aged 60 or above in 14
elderly centres were interviewed.
4. The survey was divided into two parts: (a) use of
the Internet by senior citizens; (b) senior citizens’ awareness of
personal data privacy.
Use of the Internet by senior citizens
5. The survey revealed that most of the respondents
(87%) did not have the habit of using the Internet [Fig. 5]. Of
the small number of respondents who used the Internet (13.3%), almost
half of them (47.2%) browsed the Internet every day [Fig. 6].
They normally used the Internet at home (67.9%) and community
centres/elderly centres (60.4%) [Fig. 7]. Their main purposes of
using the Internet were news reading (83.0%) and receipt and sending of
emails (77.4%), followed by using social networking websites (26.4%)
and writing blogs (20.8%) [Fig. 8]. Of the respondents who had
written blogs or used social networking websites, 61.1% had posted
their photos [Fig. 10] and 27.8% had disclosed their whereabouts [Fig.
9]. On the other hand, 72.7% of the respondents would restrict
strangers from accessing their blogs or profiles in social networking
websites, and 22.2% did not know how to do the restriction [Fig. 11].
6. Much different from the browsing pattern of the
youth is that no respondents had engaged in online shopping.
Senior citizens’ understanding of personal data privacy.
perception of personal data privacy
7. The survey found that the respondents placed
greatest importance on personal financial condition (77.7%), identity
card numbers (73.3%) and family financial condition (72.8%). In
senior citizens’ mind, age (5%) and personal health (8.3%) were not
considered privacy [Fig. 12].
8. Regarding the degree of importance of personal
data to Hong Kong society, though the respondents ranked “privacy” the
lowest among other social issues, the average rate of the degree of
importance of all the given social issues (including “privacy”) was
above 4 (5 implied the most important), namely medical services (4.72),
elderly care (4.67), food hygiene (4.65), air quality (4.56),
unemployment problem (4.35) and privacy (4.22) [Fig. 19].
personal data to others by senior citizens
9. The survey found that when applying for public
services (82.8%) and participating in opinion surveys (58.5%), most of
the respondents would provide whatever data required. However,
many respondents would also provide whatever data required when
receiving parcels (25.3%) and filling in lucky draw tickets (19.0%)
10. 63.0% of the respondents had been asked for their
personal data over the phone [Fig. 14]. 38.2% did not know the
caller at all; 37.4% knew that the callers claimed to be staff of a
survey agency, and 28.0% knew that the callers claimed to be product
promoters. In such cases, only 1.0%, 5.3% and 1.4% of the
respondents provided personal data to the callers respectively [Fig. 15
and table 2].
11. 96.0% of the respondents said that they would not
provider personal data of their family members or friends for the
purpose of getting gifts [Fig. 17].
personal data by senior citizens
12. Most of the respondents (66.8%) did not know or
were not sure how to set passwords for the services that required
passwords. For those respondents who had set passwords, 48.9%
used passwords that were difficult to guess, and 13.5% used their
telephone numbers or date of birth (12.8%) as passwords [Fig. 16].
13. When disposing of documents containing personal
data, most of the respondents (74.1%) torn the documents up and then
put them into the rubbish bin, but 8.8% put the whole documents into
the rubbish bin [Fig. 18].
14. When providing personal data to others, most of
the respondents did not know that they could refer to the Personal
Information Collection Statement for the purpose of collection.
52.0% of the respondents did not even know what the Personal
Information Collection Statement was. Only 20.0% of the
respondents carefully read the content of the Personal Information
Collection Statement [Fig. 20].
citizens lodge complaints against misuse of personal data?
15. Most of the respondents (74.5%) said that if
their personal data were misused, they would definitely lodge a
complaint [Fig. 21]. The complaint channels were Hong Kong Police
(23.4%), PCPD (17.7%), organization which misused their personal data
(15.7%), district councilors (11.4%), Office of the Ombudsman (3.3%),
Consumer Council (1.7%). 24.7% of the respondents did not know or
not sure the complaint channels. For those who chose the item
“Others” (32.1%), 55.2% of them would seek assistance from elderly
centres, which amounted to 17.7% of all the complaint channels [Fig.
16. Dr. Ernest Chui, Director of Sau Po Centre on
Ageing of the University of Hong Kong, who was in charge of the survey
believed that it was important to educate senior citizens, especially
those who lived alone, through civic education, e.g. mass media,
elderly centres, etc. the items of personal data and the circumstances
under which they could provide personal data to others. As senior
citizens who live alone may not be able to get assistance from their
family, they are susceptible to disclosure of their personal
data. Moreover, with higher education and technology advancement,
more and more senior citizens use the Internet. Therefore, senior
citizens should be educated that they have to be careful when uploading
data and not to disclose their personal data and whereabouts.
Besides, they should be careful when setting passwords and should not
put passwords and relevant data together. Senior citizens are
reminded that they should not provide personal data over the phone
because they will easily fall into fraud and deception in this way.