Edward Snowden sign held up by protesters
Edward Snowden's revelations about widespread NSA and GCHQ monitoring of online activity has raised the level of awareness about privacy online. Reuters

According to new research, privacy online is now seen by half of UK people as a luxury - though most are only willing to pay £2.50 per month for the added security.

In the past 12 months the public's understanding of how the internet works and how our online activity and data is monitored has been changed irrevocably.

From Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA and GCHQ to Google clarifying that it is scanning all your emails and the Heartbleed Bug which left millions of websites vulnerable, people are more aware than ever of security risks online.

Despite this, it seems that most UK people would rather walk away from using a service than pay for a more secure version.

A survey of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by security company Trend Micro, finds that nearly half would quit services like Facebook (45%), search giants like Google (44%) and email providers like Yahoo (39%) if they thought their personal data was being sold or shared.

Online privacy now a "luxury good"

"It's a sad state of affairs that we now think of online privacy as a luxury good," says Rik Ferguson, vice president security research at Trend Micro.

"Users are clearly telling providers they will vote with their feet rather than pay excessively for privacy and there's the real possibility of an exodus from certain services if users feel their data is being unethically handled."

The research found that 58% would pay to secure their data online, but the average people are willing to pay is just £30.30 annually.

According to the survey, over 40% of respondents said they were considering opting out of free email providers to pay for a more secure service - a trend which could have something to do with reports earlier this week that Google was working on end-to-end encryption for its Gmail service.

Selling data

More than a fifth of respondents had stopped using public Wi-Fi hotspots following numerous reports of privacy issues.

Three-quarters of all respondents said they would be unhappy with private and public service providers selling their data, even if it meant they were getting a better service.

The EU is about to introduce its Data Protection Regulation which is aimed at protecting European citizen's data but only 37% of respondents felt the new regulation will force organisations to implement more stringent security and even fewer (34%) expect it to stop organisations from illegally collecting customer data.

"In both the public and private sectors it's a call for organisations to become more transparent about how they use our data. It's encouraging to see the EU take proactive steps to address these data privacy concerns, though clearly the public is sceptical about how much of an impact this will have on them," Ferguson said.