Most online adults know they’re not anonymous but take steps to protect privacy

A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found at the more than a fifth (21%) of adults have had an email or social media account hijacked and more than a tenth (11%) have had information important information stolen, such as a social security number, credit card or bank account numbers.

The report, Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online, is based on a sample of 1,002 adults interviewed by telephone in July, 2013. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.4%

Although 59% of those surveyed said that they don’t believe that it’s possible to be completely anonymous online, most people are taking at least some steps to protect their privacy. For example, 86% of Internet users have taken steps to remove or mask their digital footprints, “ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email,from avoiding using their name to using virtual networks that mask their internet protocol (IP) address.” More than half (55%) have done something to “avoid observation” by specific people, organizations or the government.

Stronger laws

The survey found that 68% of Americans feel current laws are not good enough in protecting people’s privacy online” while only 24% believe current laws provide reasonable protections. The Obama administration  has proposed an online privacy bill of rights but, so far, Congress hasn’t acted on it.

Key findings

  • 21%  of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.
  • 3% have experienced trouble in a relationship between them and a family member or a friend because of something the user posted online.
  • 12% have been stalked or harassed online.
  • 11% have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.
  • 6%  have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.
  • 6% have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.
  • 4%  have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.
  • 1%  have lost a job opportunity or educational opportunity because of something they posted online or someone posted about them.

Getting along. And not

I find bullet point #2 (trouble in a relationship based on posting) to be particularly interesting in light of all the talk about youth bullying.  This is a survey of adults who — like teens and kids — use the Internet to socialize and interact with family and friends and — like all other forms of interaction — there are bound to be some touchy moments. Still, 3% is a fairly low percentage considering that it’s pretty common for people to have “trouble in a relationship” in the offline world.

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