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Brits terrified of online fraud, but want magic cars, says BT

UK a nation of web worrywarts

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Britons' fear of online crime has rocketed in the last ten years, according to BT.

The UK telco makes the claim in its new "21st Century Life Index", a pile of research examining how consumer attitudes to technology have changed since the heady days of 1998 and the information superhighway.

Back then only 3 per cent said that if they could improve the internet in one way it would be to make it safer from scammers and other reprobates. Today the proportion wishing for a less dangerous online life is 28 per cent. Yet just 2 per cent of non-internet users cite fraud as the reason they stay offline.

Less dodginess is now the second most popular request for improving the net* after faster speeds, which also held the top spot 10 years ago. There's bad news for BT's plans to justify billions of pounds in fast fibre investment by carrying high definition TV - only 13 per cent said they would be interested.

Happily for the net's libertarian progenitors, the increased fear of nasties hasn't prompted an accompanying clamour for authorities to get more involved. The proportion of the public that wants more regulation has risen only slightly from 4 per cent in 1998 to 6 per cent today.

Elsewhere in the report there are unsurprising stats showing that we're all spending longer online, visiting more websites, and spending more cash online. However, the rise of the internet seems to have left many craving more direct contact. Face-to-face communication remains our favourite, and has increased its dominance as the preferred medium for 51 per cent of the population in 1998 to 68 per cent today.

In a section that follows in BT's proud tradition of pointless futurology, it reports that by 2012, 28 per cent of Britons want a water-powered vehicle, 18 per cent a powered exoskeleton and 17 per cent a robotic housekeeper. In similar spirit we'd like to register our demands for the moon on a stick, the reanimation of Rod Hull, and a flying car made of gold. ®

* Regular readers might note that BT and Phorm have recently been touting another piece of research (which we're not allowed to see for ourselves) that they say shows that what actually annoys people most about the internet is "irrelevant advertising". Strangely, more effective marketing doesn't appear in the 21st Century Life Index's list of how people would improve the internet...

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