Do you have an anonymous account online? The latest survey conducted by global cybersecurity company Kaspersky confirms that you are not alone.

More than 3-in-10 users in Asia Pacific (APAC) admitted to having a social media profile without their real names, photos, and personally identifiable information (PII). Conducted just last November among 1,240 respondents from the region, the “Digital Reputation” research shows that the power of anonymity is being used the most in Southeast Asia at 35% followed by South Asia at 28% and Australia at 20%.

The platform being used the most by users who want to keep their identities are Facebook (70%), YouTube (37%), Instagram (33%), and Twitter (25%).

While it may be frowned upon at first glance, the use of “nameless and faceless profiles” is two-pronged. Survey results unmasked how this reality allow individuals to chase their passions and to harness free speech but at the same time to conduct malicious and harmful activities.

Online users in APAC have anonymous accounts, check businesses’ social media profiles before purchase

The quantified percent is that almost half (49%) of those surveyed stated that they use anonymous accounts to exercise their freedom of speech without affecting their reputation, while 48% wanted to indulge in their secret interests that they were not too keen on having their friends find out about.

More than a quarter (34%) also use these account to be able to disagree with someone or a news online without using my real identity Although 30% used an anonymous social media account for the fairly innocuous activity of sharing information about their favourite artists and interests, 22% were also engaged in online stalking.

Only a small percentage (3%) reported using an anonymous account to deflect spam emails from their actual accounts, avoid doxing, serve as an alternative for other purposes such as gaming and prevent external agencies from having access to their real email accounts.

The crux of these findings is that consumers in APAC are increasingly becoming aware of the reputation they are building online and its importance to their real lives. On these basis, it is not surprising that 49% of the respondents will check the social media accounts of a brand or a company before purchasing their goods or services.

A point worth noting for businesses is that more than half (51%) of the survey respondents underlined the importance of a company’s online reputation. Nearly 5-in-10 (48%) asserted that they avoid companies who were involved in a scandal or had received negative news coverage online.

Additionally, 38% also stopped using a company’s or brand’s products once they were embroiled in some kind of crisis online. Almost half (41%) also revealed that the reputation of the brand’s endorsers affect their view of the brand.

When asked about brand’s transparency on their online pages, 50% of users in APAC think that companies should not delete negative comments on their social media accounts.

“From the initial purpose of finding and connecting with friends and families, social media has evolved and will continue to evolve in unprecedented ways. It has played a key role on how we socialise and identify with each other, but now, we have arrived at a fork in the road where virtual profiles of both individuals and companies are being used as a parameter for judgment,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

“Our latest survey confirmed that consumers now hold companies accountable for their online reputation, in the same way that individuals’ behaviour on social media is now being used to determine one’s credit score, to screen one’s employability, and even to either reject or approve one’s Visa request. With these real-world repercussions, we must learn a fine balancing act between privacy and security to be able to secure our increasingly crucial digital reputation,” he adds.

To help consumers in defending their online reputations, Kaspersky shares five important steps that we can all take to ensure that we are protected and secure online:

Remember your digital reputation is also linked to your personal reputation. Everything that is posted on the internet remains on the internet, including harsh and radical judgments. These can lead to unpleasant explanations at the workplace or during hiring processes.

To protect your digital reputation, it’s better to be more cautious than to reveal personal information about yourself, especially on social profiles. Never divulge too much, stick to basics and share only things that are necessary and needed. The more your share, the more appealing you are to an attacker who is looking to steal your personal data or even your identity.

Delete accounts and data – we all have dozens of accounts, many of which are barely used or forgotten. Many of them persist and any one of them could leak your information.

Preventing personal data abuse – if apps are asking for sensitive data, take a look at its privacy policy, which might openly state that your data will be passed to third-party companies. Don’t give apps more information than necessary – think carefully about what they genuinely need and what they can do without. Remember that any information you hand over to apps is unlikely to remain completely private.

A combined solution of security products and practical steps can minimise the threats and keep your data safe online. Reliable security solutions for comprehensive protection from a wide range of threats – such as Kaspersky Security Cloud and Kaspersky Internet Security, coupled with the use of Kaspersky Password Manager to safely store your valuable digital data – can help solve the problem of keeping your personal information under control.

The Kaspersky “Making sense of our place in the digital reputation economy” report studies attitudes of individuals in Asia Pacific towards building a secure and reputable online identity on social media. It also looks into how tainted digital reputation of businesses are perceived.

The study was conducted by research agency YouGov in Australia, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam last November 2020. A total of 1,240 respondents were surveyed across the stated countries.

The respondents ranged from 18-65 years of age, all of which are working professionals who are active on social media (spending at least 1 hour a day on social media).

Through this paper, when the behaviour of the population of a market is generalised, it is in reference to the group of respondents sampled above.

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