Poll finds people worried about online privacy, taking measures

Sept. 5, 2013 at 5:38 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- A majority of Americans say they believe it's impossible to be anonymous when using the Internet -- but that doesn't mean they're not trying, a survey says.

While 59 percent of respondents in a poll by the Pew Research Center said they think it is not possible to be completely anonymous online, 86 percent said they have made an effort to cover their digital tracks by clearing cookies and browsing histories, using temporary email addresses and employing encryption in their online communications.

Fifty-five percent of Internet users said they have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations or the government, a Pew release reported Thursday.

"Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible," Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, said. "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."

Increasing numbers of Internet users say they have experienced problems because others stole their personal information or otherwise took advantage of their visibility online, the survey found.

Pew polled a representative sample of 1,002 adults in the United States by telephone from July 11 to 13. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, Pew said.

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