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New survey: Boomers are more savvy about online security than millennials

April 23, 2019

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Busy execs get up to 500 emails a day; here's how to craft one that will get a response. (Image by "janeb13" via pixabay CCO Public Domain)
Busy execs get up to 500 emails a day; here's how to craft one that will get a response. (Image by "janeb13" via pixabay CCO Public Domain)

Baby boomers beat out tech-savvy millennials in guarding their online security, according to a survey of over 4,000 internet users from 18 to over 65 years old released on March 1 from new media company Axios.

Internet users know data brokers sell their names, addresses, income, and online behavior and habits to advertisers and fraudsters “phish” into their bank accounts to steal money and personal information, but their concerns aren’t leading them to take concrete action, say privacy experts. As reported in February in this blog, Internet users have grown increasingly numb to the urgency of protecting themselves online.

Business reporters can challenge their readers to take one of more of the following action steps to strengthen their online security and protect themselves from fraudsters:

Read your privacy policy

Grab your readers’ attention by tapping into their competitive spirit. Assemble a panel of readers representing Millennials (23-38); Gen Xers (39-53), and boomers (54-74) and interview them about their online privacy habits. The vast majority of those 65 and older are more skeptical about reading privacy policies. Only 15% skip that information and automatically hit the “I agree” button, compared with nearly three times (46%) the number of millennials who do.

Most boomers (91%) also believe it’s important to understand privacy policies, compared with 75% of younger users. Invite a privacy expert or two to sit on the panel (virtually speaking, via Skype or some other technology). A well-regarded source is Beth Givens at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Use higher levels of security

But age doesn’t matter when it comes to biometric authentication, according to a recent survey of 1,000 consumers by Veridium, a New York software company that develops the specialized security for businesses. Approximately 70% favor more biometrics in the workplace, and the reasons are strikingly different by age. millennials like the speed of biometrics, Gen Xers prefer the convenience of not having to remember passwords, and boomers value the enhanced security. Biometrics can include: retina scans, iris recognition, finger scanning (the digital version of fingerprinting), finger vein ID, and facial and voice recognition. Consumer desire for more workplace security is good news, says OpenVPN, a virtual privacy network. According to a 2018 study, employee cyber behavior puts companies at risk. Approximately 25% of employees don’t change their passwords, the company found. Localize this angle by interviewing local businesses that have, or are expanding, biometric authentication.

Watch for a change in data-collecting  

If you haven’t already covered this story, here’s a third that lends itself nicely to “hands-on” online feature or video to explain the issue. Are your readers seeing pop-ups and notifications about data usage when they log onto accounts? Or email requests to update their preferences, or consent to data collection? Are they responding? Ask them. A May 2018 regulation on data collection in the European Union is changing data-collecting rules in the United States, too.

The new law allows consumers to view and correct inaccurate information, and more. European regulators enacted the new law, the General Data Protection Regulation, in May 2018, but it affects any U.S. company or entity, including charities and nonprofit organizations, that collects information and monitors consumer behavior, to comply. Find out if your readers are taking advantage of this new law.


  • Dorianne Perrucci

    Since 2001, Dorianne's freelance bylines have appeared in leading print and digital news outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, The Star-Ledger and NJ Biz. During the financial crisis of 2007-2009, Do...

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