According to a new U.S. survey, more and more web users would like to be anonymous online, but still think it is not possible to avoid observation by specific people or organisations.
In a survey of 792 American internet users, 86 % said they have taken specific actions to delete or mask their digital footprints: i.e. clearing cookies, encrypting some emails, avoiding using their real name online or masking their IP address.
The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, and underwritten by Carnegie Mellon University. It explains that 59 % of the web users interviewed do not believe it is possible to be completely anonymous online, and 68 % of internet users believing current laws are not good enough at protecting people’s privacy online.
This is not due to a lack of awareness, as most internet users know – according to Pew – that some of their personal information – e.g. photos, videos, email addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, home addresses are available online.
A growing numbers of internet users say that they are worried about the amount of personal information about them that is online, a figure that rose from 33% in 2009 to 50 % in 2013.
People do not know indeed how to take control over their information and to make sure that the content of their emails, the people to whom they are sending emails, the place where they are when they surf online, and the content of the files they download are not accessible to prying eyes.
The recent PRISMgate and other revelations of Internet surveillance made people increasingly willing to protect their personal data without knowing where to start so as to be sure they stay anonymous online.
“Their concerns apply to an entire ecosystem of surveillance. In fact, they are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government.” said Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project who also contributed to the report.
The section of the survey looking at various security-related issues revealed why this will has recently grown as many internet users have already experienced problems: 21% have had an email or social networking account compromised or used without permission, 12 % have been stalked or harassed online. Last but not least, 11% have had important personal information stolen such as credit card or bank account information, and 6% have undergone some online scam and lost money due to cybercrime.
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