Survey: 86 Percent of Internet Users Taking Steps to Mask Digital Footprints

By Gregory Gwyn-Williams, Jr. | September 5, 2013 | 12:22pm EDT

A growing number of internet users are worried about the amount of personal information that is available online, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

In 2009, thirty-three percent of internet users said they were concerned about their information online. Today, that number has grown to 50 percent.

The survey found that most internet users would like to remain anonymous and 86 percent have taken steps to remove their “digital footprints.”

Users attempt to mask their online activity by clearing cookies, encrypting emails, avoiding using their real names and using virtual networks to hide their internet protocol (IP) addresses.

Fifty-five percent of users said they have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations and the government.

Many users say they have experienced security-related problems as a result of information that is visible online.

Twenty-one percent have had an email or social networking account compromised by someone else without permission, and 11 percent have had information such as Social Security numbers, credit cards or bank accounts stolen. Six percent say they have lost money as a result of an online scam.

Online information has also affected users’ personal relationships with 13 percent reporting trouble with a friend or family member as a result of something that was posted on the internet.

Six percent say that their reputation has been damaged because of something that happened online, and four percent of users have been led into physical danger.

With the recent revelations of NSA spying and allegations that big tech firms are snooping on emails, it isn’t surprising that more internet users are concerned about their personal information. 

The online paranoia has even prompted one company to offer services that help users “vanish” from the internet.

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