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New Online Privacy and Security Survey Findings

Online Security

The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently released the results of a survey on Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online. The survey, which sampled 1,002 adults 18 years of age or older, found that “86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints.” Actions including clearing cookies, encrypting email, avoiding use of their real name, and even using virtual networks to mask their internet protocol (IP) address, were just some of the wide range of steps that people have taken to maintain privacy online. Despite the many possible avenues for protecting privacy online, the survey found that “59% of internet users do not believe it is possible to be completely anonymous online.”

In the internet age many individuals are posting personal information online. According to the survey “a growing numbers of internet users (50%) say they are worried about the amount of personal information about them that is online.” This figure was only 33% when the survey was first taken in 2009.

According to the survey, many internet users reported experiencing problems with stolen identities, hacked accounts, harassment and victimization by scanners:

  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.
  • 13% of internet users have experienced trouble in a relationship between them and a family member or a friend because of something the user posted online.
  • 12% of internet users have been stalked or harassed online.
  • 11% of internet users have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.
  • 6% of internet users have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.
  • 6% of internet users have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.
  • 4% of internet users have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.
  • 1% of internet users have lost a job opportunity or educational opportunity because of something they posted online or someone posted about them.

With so many reported problems that stem from issues related to online privacy and security it is possibly no surprise that the survey found “68% of internet users believe current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy online”.

For individuals looking for information on steps to take to increase online security USA.gov provides a good overview on their Protect Your Privacy Online page which is frequently updated.

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