Trust in Computing Research : 0 : Introduction

As you may be aware, we reached our 10 year milestone in January for Trustworthy Computing (TwC) and recently at RSA Conference 2012, the leader of our TwC group, Corporate Vice President Scott Charney delivered a keynote on how computing and society has changed over the past 10 years and also announced the new Trustworthy Computing Next white paper.

As part of the preparation leading up to these activities, Bruce Cowper and I began having some interesting discussions about all of the computing and technology trends that society is currently experiencing and how they affect people’s trust in technology – consumerization of IT, social networking, the growing use of smartphones for Internet connectivity, several aspects of cloud computing, global position satellite (GPS) location data – all of these and more weren’t even part of the landscape or discussions ten years ago.

We decided to kick off a research project to examine the trends and people’s attitudes and opinions about them with the goal of getting some insight into the many factors that influence trust in computing.  We initially targeted about 25 questions to ask consumers and IT professionals across several different countries, but it was just too interesting and we went a little beyond that.  We selected comScore as the agency to field the global survey and they were excellent to work with, in many cases providing existing comScore published data to provide additional context to our own data.


The Trust in Computing research was conducted across nine countries:


The countries were chosen to give us a good mix of demographics around the world that would also potentially (in our pre-research expectations) reflect different levels of computing adoption and opinions concerning the various trends going on within computing and society.  As we dig into the research results, we hope discover where differences and commonalities actually occur.


In order to get a good cross sectional representation of opinions and attitudes, it was important for us to be able to differentiate between different types of users.  Segmentation questions in the survey help us identify different types of computing roles:

IT Professional: Plans, deploys, manages, or supports information technology for a company or organization.

Developer: Designs or customizes software applications or Web sites; writes or tests computer code; or manages a software development process.

Business/Policy Decision Maker: Makes business or policy decisions that direct a company or organization’s strategies, or determines how resources are allocated, but does not work in the IT department.

Information worker: Uses a computer at work as part of their job and is not part of the roles above.

Home User: Uses a computer solely at home for personal purposes.


It is important to note that the survey was conducted online and therefore all respondents will have had to use a computer of some sort, connected to the Internet as part of the polling process.  That is a very important context to note, since it immediately applies a filter to results and means these results don’t represent that percentage of people who don’t really use computers, smartphones and the like.

Areas of Interest

In conducting this survey, we tried to design the questions in a way that would provide us with both insights into perceptions on and how people use computing in their everyday lives while remaining technology agnostic. Several questions requested typed responses to allow the respondent to describe their experiences. One consideration with any perception based survey across the world is the impact of cultural nuances. For example, we find that in some cultures respondents are less inclined to provide negative responses to questions, therefore presenting a more positive perception. It is also possible that linguistic nuances may provide variance through translation.

Though many of our questions cross the boundaries of exact categorization, these are the general areas of interest where we developed questions and will be analyzing and publishing our results:

  • Computing and the Internet Usage
  • Consumerization of IT
  • Social Networking and Social Media
  • Cloud Computing
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Reliability
  • Government Roles
  • Cybersecurity
  • Being the IT Admin at Home

Analysis and Publication

Rather than packaging up all of the questions and results into a single report, we decided it would be interesting to look at groups of related questions together in detail and publish our analysis and results in an ongoing blog series on the Microsoft Security Blog.  Our general plan of attack for our areas of interest is:

  • Publish a first post that takes a high level look at a group of questions and examines the global data all together
  • Publish a second post that drills down on those same questions, looking at differences between home users and IT professionals
  • Publish one or more additional posts that examine differences between opinions and attitudes in different countries
  • In some cases, publish feature posts on questions that deserve individual attention

NOTE:  All of these posts will be authored jointly by myself and Bruce Cowper, but since the blog only let’s us specify one author, we plan to alternate the posts.

The next article in the series will be looking at questions in our survey related to Computing and Internet usage. 

About the Author
Jeff Jones

Principal Cybersecurity Strategist

Jeff Jones a 27-year security industry professional that has spent the last decade at Microsoft working with enterprise CSOs and Microsoft's internal teams to drive practical and measurable security improvements into Microsoft products and services. Additionally, Jeff analyzes vulnerability trends Read more »