Would you betray your friends for free pizza? What if it were a perfectly crafted deep-dish pizza dripping with cheese and pepperoni and all that is good in this world?

Well, according to a new study, my generation would do it in a heartbeat – and it doesn’t even have to be for a particularly great slice of pizza.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that out of 3,108 MIT students… a staggering 98% would give away their best friend’s email address for a free slice.

More troubling… many would do it even if there weren’t a delicious triangle of cheese and temptation being waved in front of their faces. A whopping 94% would hand over their friend’s emails without incentive. Although 6% of those handed out fake email addresses to protect their friends’ identities. (Right on.)

This is just as surprising as it is disturbing to me.

Shouldn’t we know better than to give out personal information so easily?

After all, more people are at risk of being hacked now than ever before. In fact, roughly two-thirds of Internet users have been victims of a major hack.

It’s an epidemic at this point: How many times have we heard tales of identity theft among our family or friends? Just recently, my mother had someone try to withdraw thousands of dollars from her bank account – and they had her signature on them.

We all know someone who’s been a victim of some sort of hack or identity theft – someone who has had their privacy violated.

Yet most people still aren’t taking proper precautions. Just to give you an idea:

  • About 30% of smartphone users don’t use a password to unlock their phone.
  • About 54% of Internet users access public Wi-Fi networks, putting them at huge risk of being hacked.
  • About 41% have shared their account passwords with a friend or family member.
  • And 39% use the same or similar passwords for many online accounts.
  • In fact, only 12% use any kind of password manager – like LastPass or 1Password – which save complex passwords on a digital keychain for secure logins.

This is shocking considering Pew Research Center found that nearly 75% of Americans believe protecting their information is vital – and 60% revealed they would never be comfortable sharing their emails.

There’s clearly a disparity here.

Despite feeling as if we should protect our information – and our friend’s information – the majority of Americans aren’t following through with a plan that will keep them safe. They are leaving themselves and their loved ones vulnerable to cyber criminals, so the big question here is…

Why?

Maybe it’s because they aren’t aware of the easily implemented solutions out there. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to break old habits. (Maybe it’s because they really want free pizza.)

Whatever the case, I truly hope you’re one of the few Americans out there who wants to actively protect your privacy. I urge you to make yourself a difficult target – don’t make it easy on hackers.

As one expert says: “When your privacy is at threat, there’s only one thing to do. You need to fight back.”

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