Most Internet users try to hide their digital footprints by removing cookies or encrypting their email, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. 86% of Americans surveyed by the institute said they try to live a discrete life online, while more than a half avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.
â€œUsers clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible,â€ Director of the Pew Research Centerâ€™s Internet Project Lee Rainie said in a press release.Â â€œTheir 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.â€
The survey of 792 internet users also found that one in five internet users had their email or social network account compromised or hacked. Over 12 per cent have been stalked or harassed online, while almost the same percentage had personal details such as their Social Security Number or credit card stolen by scammers.
“It’s a sliding scale,” college professor Lynn Boyden told the Associated Press. “Some things are and should be private.” The website design teacher lives a double life online: one under a public and professional identity, and the other for close friends. The teacher also tries to block advertising trackers and limit the personal details she shares on the Internet.
The Pew Research Center also showed that 6 per cent of users lost money to online scams, and the same percentage had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.
The survey was underwritten by the Carnegie Mellon University, which recently showed Facebook users are sharing more personal information even as privacy concerns grow. Their seven-year study published in March found evidence that the amount of information people publish changed over time, depending on the features Facebook introduced.