Gen Z exposed as the worst data hoarders

Ones and zeros representing data.

Gen Z exposed as the worst data hoarders Duncan is an award-winning technology industry analyst, specialising in cloud computing, blockchain, martech and edge computing.

Veritas Technologies, the leader in secure multi-cloud data management, today released results from a survey “In the Cloud, Out of Mind”, revealing the environmentally aware Generation Z is not necessarily conscious of how their personal digital footprint from online accounts and applications is negatively impacting the environment.

Over half of data stored in predominantly fossil-fueled data centres by businesses is waste data. Unwittingly contributing to this are the 63% of Generation Z who said they have dormant online accounts giving them access to banking, online shopping, entertainment, insurance, phones, broadband, and utility services that they no longer use. This figure is higher than for any other age group in the UK – on average 45% of the UK population has dormant online accounts.

The research revealed a perception gap among Generation Z. Almost half (49%) said they believe their online accounts have no negative impact on the environment. Yet nearly half (45%) also said it’s wrong for businesses to waste energy and cause pollution by storing unneeded information online.

Ian Wood, Head of Technology UK&I at Veritas said: “Today, we have online accounts for almost everything. Yet millions of these accounts go unused, particularly among the Generation Z demographic. Rather than sitting in a magic cloud, this largely useless account data sits unused in data centres, which are mostly fossil fuel-powered and operate 24 hours a day. These data centers account for 2% of all carbon emissions—that’s about the same as the entire airline industry. We know that Generation Z is arguably the most environmentally conscious generation that has ever existed, but knowingly or not, they’re also leading the way among consumers in creating the most carbon emissions from unnecessary data storage.”

The survey, which polled 2,000 people in the UK, also revealed the following about Generation Z:

  • Four-fifths (82%) have entertainment and shopping accounts that they never touch with 2 in 5 having 3 or more dormant accounts
  • Over two-thirds (69%) have an account with an internet service or mobile phone provider that they no longer interactive with
  • Two-thirds (66%) have at least one online bank account they no longer use
  • A similar number (60%) have an insurance account that is inactive
  • Three-fifths (60%) have utility accounts they don’t access

The research shows that nearly one third (32%) of Generation Z have never tried to close these unused dormant accounts. The most common reason being that it has no impact on them personally (40%). Almost a quarter (24%) said it’s because they simply don’t have the time, and 16% believe it’s far too complicated.

Wood added: “There’s a big information gap if even Generation Z is unaware of the environmental consequences of storing unnecessary data. We all need to be empowered to make good decisions about our online lives and digital footprints—or this issue risks snowballing into a sustainability nightmare for future generations. Based on the current growth levels of data storage, unless action is taken, carbon emissions from data are expected to be at least 10% by 2050. We all need to make time for good data housekeeping to make a positive difference and stop this negative trend.

“Easy steps to take are deleting online accounts, images, and documents that we no longer use and unsubscribing from, as well as deleting emails, when we don’t need to store them.” 

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