The Paradox of Cybercrime Risk and Internet Use in Canada: A Socio-Criminological Perspective
Increased internet use has created opportunities for criminality. Internet penetration is soaring against the backdrop of the increased risk of cybercrime victimization. A mixed method approach is employed in this study to examine why Canadians continue to use the internet, notwithstanding the fear and persistent or inherent risk of victimization in cyberspace, through the lens of the structure and agency discourse. In other words, has the perception of cybercrime victimization changed internet use? Questions explored include: internet users’ knowledge and perceptions of risk, their attitude to internet security, fear of cybercrime and victimization experiences and its impact on behavior, attitude towards reporting, frequency of internet use and effect on behavior, and motivation for internet use. The study utilizes an integrated theoretical framework comprising risk, structuration, and rational choice. Canada-wide data was collected using an online survey. Logistic regression is used to construct models for each outcome variable, while internet use motivation is analyzed using thematic qualitative analysis. The findings indicate that socio-demographic characteristics such as gender, level of education, and marriage are associated with the risk of cybercrime. While victimization experience is significantly negatively associated with cybercrime fear, it is not significantly associated with cybercrime risk perception. The effect of victimization on internet behavior constraints in terms of avoidance and defensive internet use is inconclusive; similarly, there is an inconclusive relationship between fear of cybercrime and cybercrime incident reporting. It is unclear whether internet use frequency constrains the behavior of internet users, even though the univariable results suggest that frequent internet users have increased odds of adopting avoidance and defensive internet use actions. Thematic analysis revealed motivations for internet use to include education and knowledge acquisition, entertainment and fun, communication and social media access, commercial purposes, work and personal related reasons, news and information access, and others. The thematic results demonstrate that an intricate interaction between structure and agency underpins Canadians’ motivations for using the internet. Based on the findings, the study argues for greater theoretical flexibility to understand the apparent paradox between internet use and cybercrime risk. The results have implications for theory, policy and practice, including for cyberspace offending, victimization, and crime control.
Cybercrime, Victimization, Risk, Motivation
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)