More Internet users trying to cover tracks, worrying about privacy

More Internet users trying to cover tracks, worrying about privacy

Summary: Pew Research study also shows women more likely than men to use real name when posting online.

TOPICS: Cloud, Security

Nearly 90% of Internet users have employed at least one technique to try and hide their digital footprints, and nearly half are worried about the amount of their personal information that is online, according to a study by the Pew Research Center and Carnegie Mellon University.

As the depth of NSA snooping continues to be revealed, the 35-page survey, titled Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online, shows that 86% of adult Internet users have taken steps from time to time to avoid surveillance by other people or organizations when they are online.

But the survey did note that considerably more people take steps to avoid advertisers and "unpleasant social observation" than those who take steps to avoid detection by their employers or by government or law enforcement.

The users employ techniques such as clearing cookies (64%), encrypting email (14%), not using web sites that asked for their real name (36%), and using virtual network to mask their IP address (14%).

Pew resarch on how people hide their visibility on line Aug. 2013
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

The survey showed younger users (18-29) were more likely to try an obscure their Internet tracks, and showed women (55%) were more likely than men (43%) to use their real name when they post material online.

But only 37% of respondents think it is possible to be completely anonymous online, and 33% said people should not be allowed to use the Internet anonymously.

In addition, respondents said they would like control over their information and said only people they authorize should have access to the content of their emails, who is receiving that email, the places they visit online and the content of the files they download.

Despite these concerns, the amount of people using social media sites continues to climb. The number of people using Facebook each month grew from 901 million in March 2012 to 1.11 billion in March 2013 - a 23% increase. Facebook announced those numbers during its earnings report in March.

The Pew survey said most Internet users know that key pieces of their personal information are available online, and 50% say they worry about that fact. The number is up from 33% in 2009. Survey respondents age 30-49 were the most eager to control access to their personal information.

In the survey, 21% said they have had email and social media accounts hijacked, and 11% said they lost vital information such as social security numbers and bank account data.

As far as laws that protect privacy, 68% said current laws are not good enough, while 24% said they are reasonable protections.

Pew Research and Carnegie Mellon University conducted the report jointly under the leadership of Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, and Sara Kiesler, Hillman Professor of Computer Science and Human‐Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. The survey was done in July with 1,002 Internet users who were 18 and older.

Topics: Cloud, Security


John Fontana is a journalist focusing on authentication, identity, privacy and security issues. Currently, he is the Identity Evangelist for strong authentication vendor Yubico, where he also blogs about industry issues and standards work, including the FIDO Alliance.

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  • king

    my Aunty Taylor recently got Honda Ridgeline Crew Cab just by working online with a macbook... you can try these out.........
  • most of these things

    people did anyway. the only one that really surprises me is the number of people who disabled cookies permanently.
  • Websites that ensure privacy

    If you really care about privacy, then you should check out Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, and other sites that offer much better privacy. Stop using facebook, google, or any other site that clearly violates its users privacy.
  • Use Clean Up, free download.

    Clean Up, with the NSA level wipe turned out works fairly good at wiping the computer's own tracks. There are better ones if you really want to wipe a computer. It over-writes the data with zeros repeatedly an x amount of times that you set. I've got mine set for 32 times so its a bit time consuming but at the end of a browsing session I just turn it on and let it to its thing. There are always your ISP's logs so you can't really hide what you've done. Using SSL helps because the NSA sees encrypted data in the logs. The higher the layers of encrypting the longer it takes for them to unravel them. If they want to do so, they can submit your logs to an acre of machines that can do the job. So the best thing is to use a SSL to VPN to foreign Proxy server of a hostile country toward the USA. NSA is hardly going to get logs from a hostile country. Even then, they have active taps into frame relays at most service backbones. Its like tapping into the matrix, per se. Once again, acres of computers that love to break coded traffic.
    Mike Land