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Here are the results from the National Privacy Test (with answers)

Apr 22, 2021

How good are you at protecting your digital privacy? Researchers at NationalPrivacyTest.org ran a global privacy test, and the results were not great. So today, not only will we present the National Privacy Test scores but also give you the answers and a chance to improve your country’s score. But first, what is the National Privacy Test?

What is the National Privacy Test?

National Privacy Test is a place to “check your online security and privacy IQ.” Started in 2017, this year’s test featured 48,000 participants from 192 countries. It featured 20 questions divided into three categories:

  • Digital habits wanted to know what kind of digital lives people lived;
  • Privacy awareness focused on general knowledge on internet tracking and security;
  • Risk tolerance tested people’s responses to tricky situations online.

The good news is that people keep their guard up online. The risk tolerance category scored 84% worldwide, which shows that internet users understand online dangers.

People also showed sufficient knowledge in privacy awareness. Its score worldwide was 72%, with some country results dipping below 50%. However, the digital habits category proved to be the hardest nut to crack, barely passing 47% worldwide. So what does that mean? It means that most people are aware of the threats online and, in theory, know the right steps to take to protect their privacy. They just don’t.

How countries handled the National Privacy Test

We can’t present the results from all 192 countries. So let’s look at 20+ countries that had the most National Privacy Test participants and analyzed the results.

Without fail, every country did the worst in questions about digital habits and best when quizzed about risk tolerance. Here are the best- and worst-performing countries.

And the winner of the National Privacy Test is…

Nobody could match Germany in this year’s test. The country scored 6% above the global average in each of the categories. But many countries weren't too far off. In fact, we should give props to the entire continent because Europe has dominated the National Privacy Test, scoring above average in all three categories. The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium all scored above the worldwide average (65%). From the non-European countries, only the United States managed this, while Canada and Australia finished just below the average with overall scores of 64%.

Based on their digital habits, only Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany managed to score above 50%, although again, while several other European countries like Spain and Italy were close with 49%.

The United States did well and placed second in the privacy awareness category, answering 76% of questions correctly. Besides that, this category wasn’t far off from what we’ve already seen. Netherlands, Switzerland, and France are our honorable mentions with 75%, but, just like before, non-European countries are somewhat behind with Australia and Canada being closest with 71% scores each.

And there was more of the same in the risk tolerance category. Germany is the first, Netherlands and Denmark are sharing second place (88%), while the United States, France, and Norway are third, scoring 87%.

National Privacy Test results: worst-scoring countries

Unlike the leaders of the test, countries that did the worst are scattered around the globe, including Russia, Brazil, and Turkey. But no matter how you slice it, Japan’s performance was the poorest. Despite the massive nationwide adoption of technology, the home of the bullet train and the underground bike parking did third worst in terms of digital habits, and came last in the Privacy awareness and Risk tolerance categories.

Japan finished with a 44% score, 21% lower than the global average. Turkey did a little bit better (46%), with India (51%) and Brazil (52%) slightly further.

What you answered best

Despite some shortfalls, often revolving around our digital habits, there were some excellent scores. For example, 95% of people recognized a phishing attempt and chose the correct course of action in question 18.

Three questions got an average score of 88%. Most people did well identifying the strongest password, reacting to a suspicious email about malware infection, and acting when notified about an attempted login from one of their devices. Of course, there were some harder questions as well. Let’s look at them next.

Most-challenging questions in the National Privacy Test 2020

Any test is only as good as the new knowledge you gain from it. That’s why we want to show you the questions people found the most challenging and what you can learn from it.

Question 3: Which of these legal policies do you pay attention to?

The question about reading legal policies has the lowest overall score. No surprise there. People don’t read 30 pages of legal documents every time they sign up for a service. And they shouldn't have to. So what should you do?

You can protect your privacy without drowning yourself in legal mumbo jumbo.

  • Go straight to the data privacy section and check if your data is shared with third parties and whether you can opt out.
  • If it’s a paid service, search the document for terms like “refund” and “cancelation.”

It won’t protect you from everything, but spending two minutes before you click “I agree” can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Question 4: Tools. Incognito mode protects your privacy

Wrong. The only way incognito mode protects your privacy is if your only concern is your flatmate seeing your browsing history. Not only do your ISP, Google, and other big tech companies know what you’re looking at in the private browsing mode, they’re also using it to track you. The quickest and easiest way to browse privately is by using a VPN.

Question 4: Tools. Deleting browsing history protects your privacy.

As an alternative to the incognito mode, people also thought that deleting browser history makes you more private. It doesn’t. Your online activity is recorded all the time, so deleting it from your computer makes no difference. Just like before, if you want to browse privately, use a VPN.

Question 5: Can Facebook collect your data if you don’t have a Facebook account

20% of respondents said that Facebook couldn’t track them without a Facebook account, and around 20% weren’t sure. And while it shouldn’t be tracking you, it certainly can and does. This is done with Facebook Pixel, an invisible image file that site owners add to their sites, as well as social plugins buttons for liking and sharing. Facebook can tell what browser you use, what products you look at, your age and language, and much more. You can prevent this kind of tracking by using secure and private browsers (like Brave).

Question 6: What do you do when prompted to update an app?

You’re chopping away at your computer when suddenly an app says there’s an update ready. Around 40% of people opt-in to postpone the update or ignore it completely. The right choice is to update the app immediately, but we don’t like to be interrupted. And updates are interruptions.

They’re also a way to keep you secure. Chances are, the update you were prompted about is not just about better user experience or new features. Most often, it will include a list of bug fixes that make your app more secure. So while it’s an inconvenience, don’t ignore updates. Try to get into a habit of updating your apps at least at the end of each workday.

Question 10: Your devices might get infected with malware

Having finished with people’s digital habits, we move on to privacy awareness, where the results are much better. But there were a few hiccups. For example, people have some misconceptions about how they get malware. While overall, it’s one of the highest-scoring questions, around 30% of respondents also thought that sending pictures to unknown recipients may get them infected with malware.

It’s not true. But there are a few reasons not to send pictures to strangers, like meta data. It’s the information that can be extracted from a photo, like the device model, resolution, owner of the device, and GPS coordinates.

Question 12: Which of these signs suggests that a link may be unsafe?

Like in the question about malware, there were several correct answers that a lot of people picked. 81% of people correctly mistrusted a link with a grammar error or an IP address used instead of a URL. However, 24% of respondents thought that “www” must be visible, and another 10% weren’t sure.

The “www” part of the URL is not a good indicator to follow because most modern browsers already cut it off for clarity. Instead, look for a lock sign next to the web address. If it’s not there, it could be a sign that the website is using outdated security protocols. If you click on the lock, you can get more information about the website.

Question 20: Your service provider just got breached. What do you do?

This was one of the best-answered questions of the entire test. Over 90% of the respondents knew that changing your password was the right answer, while around 60% would also check their account for suspicious activity. But we included it because nearly 19% thought that deleting your account was the answer. It is not.

First, you may lose out if there’s ever a lawsuit over negligence from the company’s side. Next, you don’t get breach updates if there are any. And lastly, deleting your account does very little security-wise. Hackers already have your data and can’t use your account if you’ve changed your password.

Elisa Armstrong

Elisa Armstrong

Verified author

Elisa’s all about languages. She speaks five, loves stand-up comedy, and is writing her first novel. Besides her extensive knowledge of cybersecurity, she’s an expert in persuasion techniques hackers use and strives to teach people how to avoid online scams.