Cybersafety and Data Privacy
Fig. 1. Courtesy of Rassed, 2014.

The Rassed research program at Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology released its report The Attitudes of Online Users in the MENA Region to Cybersafety, Security and Data Privacy. The study "benchmarks the experience of Internet users in the region against global users in five key areas: access to technology, attitudes towards the Internet, levels of concern, trust in online actors and user behaviors." The survey included 2,793 respondents from across 14 countries in the Middle East.

These five areas of study are:

1. Access to Technology: Building a picture of the Arab Digital Household.
2. Attitudes: Exploring the views of Internet users in MENA towards the web.
3. Level of Concern: Examining the extent to which MENA Internet users are concerned about issues such as the repurposing of their personal online data, or the risk of someone breaking into their Internet account or e-mail.
4. Trust: Discovering the levels of trust Internet users invest in different Internet online players and third parties, from Governments to Banks and Internet Service Providers (ISPs); and whether MENA Internet users feel that their data is kept safe by such entities.
5. Behaviors: Understanding if user attitudes and concerns are reflected in the online activities undertaken by MENA’s Internet population.

The report's key findings:

1. The majority of Internet users in MENA access the web from home.
2. They are considerably less likely to make online purchases or do online banking compared to other regions.
3. MENA Internet users are considerably more likely to agree with the statement that “the Internet is making things better for people like me” – when compared to the world average.
4. They are also more supportive of the idea that Government authorities should block harmful online content than users elsewhere in the world.
5. When compared to the world average, MENA Internet users show similar levels of concern about their online communications being monitored. Nonetheless, a sizeable number are also quite relaxed about this issue.
6. Internet users in North Africa are much more inclined to believe that their personal data is safe online compared to other Internet users in both the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and globally.
7. Amongst different online players; banks and financial institutions in the region enjoy the highest levels of trust, followed by health and medical service providers and Government authorities.
8. Nearly 50% of MENA’s Internet users say they are “very careful” about what they say and do on the Internet.
9. Despite this, they are among the most likely to open attachments, documents and emails from senders they do not know; and amongst the least likely to scan their computer or mobile device for viruses and spyware.
10. They are also among the most likely to meet people online that they have not met in person, and are more likely to accept to be “friends” with someone online - or to make “connections” with people they do not personally know - than users in any other region.

The full report is available for PDF download here.