New Study Finds 39% of Public WiFi Users in the U.S. Have Accessed Sensitive Information When Using Free Public WiFi

Top Concerns for U.S. Adults Using Free Public WiFi Include Identity Theft, Compromised Accounts, and Fraudulent Tax Filings

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Apr 3, 2014) – PRIVATE WiFi today revealed the results of a study that demonstrates that a considerable portion of U.S. adults who’ve ever used free public WiFi say they have accessed sensitive information while using it. According to the survey, 66% of U.S. adults have used public WiFi and 39% of those who have said they have accessed or transmitted sensitive information while using it. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of PRIVATE WiFi in March among 2,037 adults ages 18 and older.

When asked in what ways they have accessed sensitive information while using public WiFi:

  • 26% say they have checked a bank account 
  • 19% say they have paid a bill
  • 8% say they have sent an email with sensitive information such as their Social Security Number or an account number
  • 6% say they have filed their taxes
  • 10% say they have done so in another way

The survey also revealed U.S. adult attitudes towards potential threats when accessing free public WiFi. When asked about potential issues with using free public WiFi when accessing or transmitting confidential information:

  • 88% of U.S. adults mentioned identity theft
  • 76% answered compromised accounts
  • 39% noted that fraudulent tax filings could be a potential issue

These findings come during tax season, when U.S. adults who use public WiFi may be more likely to access or transmit sensitive information containing financial data. “Roughly two in five U.S. adults who use public WiFi access confidential information. I think it is safe to assume that this number increases during tax season,” said PRIVATE WiFi CEO Kent Lawson. “It’s important for people to know there are very simple ways to protect their online identity between now and April 15, as well as throughout the rest of the year.”

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) like PRIVATE WiFi protects you when you access public WiFi by encrypting everything you send and receive — including web traffic, emails, and IMs. PRIVATE WiFi uses the same technology employed by your bank or your credit card company to keep your data safe while you are connected to public WiFi. By rerouting your data through an encrypted server in another location, you stay anonymous.

The survey also asked about preferences and attitudes towards VPN technology. The results revealed what would prompt U.S. adults who don’t already use a VPN to purchase one:

  • 45% said if it were affordable
  • 30% said if they had more information overall
  • 24% said if their identity were compromised

These findings indicate that there is still a need to educate U.S. adults when it comes to the potential threats posed by free public WiFi hotspots. For example, a VPN offers them a way to protect themselves from identity theft.

“The public needs to know just how easy it is for hackers to steal their private and sensitive information out of thin air. VPN technology can protect them, and it’s an easy, affordable solution,” said Lawson. “But they shouldn’t wait until after their identity has been stolen to seek protection. They should do so pre-emptively to avoid the inherent threats of being put in a compromising position — such as identity theft — that could happen when they use a free WiFi hotspot.”

Additional key survey findings include:

  • 53% of free public WiFi users are men, while 47% are women
  • 37% of free public WiFi users are ages 18-34, 19% are ages 35-44, 18% are ages 45-54, 15% are ages 55-64, and 11% are ages 65+
  • 64% of free public WiFi users have at least some college education
  • 17% of free public WiFi users have a total household income of $50K-$74.9 and 42% have at total household income of $75K+

To view an infographic containing information from the survey, please visit:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of PRIVATE WiFi from March 11-13, 2014 among 2,037 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tiffany Sumner at

Private Communications Corporation is a security technology company that protects personal data and information on the Internet. PRIVATE WiFi, the company’s flagship software offering, encrypts all computer data across unencrypted WiFi networks, enhancing online privacy for those without access to virtual private networks. PRIVATE WiFi was founded by software entrepreneur Kent Lawson, who is concerned about the growing number of privacy issues on the Internet.

Private Communications Corporation is headquartered in Sherman, CT. For more information, visit us at and for articles and other online privacy resources, please visit You can also connect with them on Facebook at

PRIVATE WiFi protects your identity by making your sensitive information invisible on any public WiFi network. For more information, please contact us at 1-888-525-3078.

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit