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July 09, 2015

Bare essentials: Millennials would rather have nude photos online than stolen financial info

Which would you rather have on web, nude photo or financial data?

Which would you prefer: Naked pictures of yourself circulating on the Internet or a breach of your financial data?

According to a new survey from Mastercard, 62 percent of Millennials would rather have their nude photos leaked online than have their financial information stolen or compromised. By contrast, the general population is a little more shy about their bodies: 55 percent would rather get naked on the Internet than lose financial privacy.

While baring some flesh, apparently, is not all that alarming, Millennials are more concerned about an e-mail hack or their phone being stolen. (Having their home robbed or getting pickpocketed, while still pretty bad, is not as big of a deal to Millennials, though, according to the Mastercard survey.)

"Today's digital lifestyle means consumer concerns regarding safety and security have moved online," says identity theft consultant Robert Siciliano.

After all, what's a little flash of skin? It has even paid off for the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of the world. But access to your e-mail contact list? Tragic. Going without a phone, even for the brief time it takes to get a replacement? Like running out of air. 

Information is the currency of the Millennial generation. It is far more important to them, in many cases, than most physical possessions or an image - even an embarrassing one.    

However, that giant digital financial footprint can be dangerous. More than half of Millennials go online to check personal financial information in public places, like airports and cafes, which can expose private data on public networks.

Considering that the majority of Millennials fear their e-mails or texts being hacked, it is equally alarming that about a fifth of those surveyed share their credit and debit card information via e-mail and text.  

In fact, Mastercard found that 53 percent of Millennials rarely, if at all, change passwords to their online financial accounts. And almost half use the same passwords for different online accounts.

To be fair, the overall population is not doing much better: 46 percent rarely, if at all, change passwords, according to the Mastercard survey.

It makes sense. Who can keep track of all of so many passwords? I know I can't, and every time I reset them, I can't remember the new one!


At a certain point it might be worth tapping into a password management site like Dashlane or Lastpass. Both offer a lot of free services. For example, Lastpass will notify you if it looks like one of your accounts is hacked. Plus, if something happens to you, and a loved one needs to get into your accounts, Dashlane offers access to your accounts in an emergency.

Consumers across every age group think, often mistakenly, they are protecting themselves from a financial breach: 92 percent of all respondents to Mastercard's survey, which polled 1,000 people, say they take precautions to protect themselves from their financial information being lost or stolen.

That is a worrisome disconnect.

"The fact that there is a heightened awareness is a good thing, although consumers still want to feel they are being protected by the institutions who are responsible for protecting their data," says Carolyn Balfany, Mastercard's senior vice president of U.S. product delivery.

Counting on a corporation can only go so far, though. Data breaches do and will happen. Taking a grownup attitude toward protecting your financial data will pay off.

To paraphrase Mastercard's ubiquitous marketing campaign, your personal data is ... priceless.