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Study: Americans Want Online Anonymity, But Good Luck
Study: Americans Want Online Anonymity, But Good Luck

By Jennifer LeClaire
September 5, 2013 2:00PM

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Users want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible. In its survey of 792 Internet users, Pew found that a notable number of Internet users have experienced problems because others stole their personal information or otherwise took advantage of their visibility online.

How far would you go to be anonymous online? And would it matter how hard you tried? Save not using the Internet, it seems cookies and mentions and social media accounts leave trails that you can't completely hide without hiring a special service to erase the tracks.

And even then, there's no guarantee.

According to a new survey from the Pew Internet Center, most Internet users would indeed like to be anonymous online -- but many think it is not possible to be completely anonymous.

Hate Being Snooped On?

For example, 86 percent of Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints -- ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their emails. What's more, 55 percent of Internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.

"Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project and an author of a report on the survey findings.

"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," he added.

Accounts Compromised

Here are some additional data points: In its survey of 792 Internet users, Pew also found that a notable number of Internet users have experienced problems because others stole their personal information or otherwise took advantage of their visibility online.

Specifically, 21 percent of Internet users have had email or social networking accounts compromised or taken over by other people without permission. Another 12 percent have been stalked or harassed online and 11 percent have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security numbers, credit cards, or bank account information.

Finally, 6 percent have been victims of online scams and lost money, 6 percent have had their reputations damaged because of something that happened online, and 4 percent have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.

Tell Us What You Think


Brian R Bamber:

Posted: 2013-09-06 @ 12:57am PT
For me the following statement says it all: "Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrine the fundamental rights to privacy and to the protection of personal data of every individual in a legally binding nature".
(taken from Vivianne Reding, member of the European Commission)

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