Pew Report: 86% Of Online Users Attempt To Hide Their Digital Footprints

data-privacyA few days after Acxiom unveiled, a website where people can review the (sometimes inaccurate) online data that the marketing firm has collected about them, Pew Internet has published a report suggesting internet users are trying to remain anonymous online.

Out of a survey of 792 online users in the US, 86% of the respondents said they have attempted to remove or hide their digital footprints, such as by clearing cookies or encrypting their email. As for whom they are hiding from, 33% said hackers or criminals, 28% chose advertisers and 19% selected certain friends.

“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 the report, in a statement. “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.”

Photos were the most common type of personal content that was posted online (66%) followed by birthdays (50%) and email addresses (46%). More than half (66%) of the respondents said current privacy laws were “not good enough” while 24% said they provided reasonable protection.

Privacy advocates and members of California’s legislature are hoping to shed some light on the ways companies collect personally identifiable information online. California Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi has introduced a bill, AB 370, that would require website operators to explain how they respond to Do-Not-Track signals or “other mechanisms that provide consumers the ability to exercise choice regarding the collection of personally identifiable information about an individual consumer’s online activities over time and across third-party Web sites or online services, if the operator engages in that collection.”

The bill has passed both houses of the California Legislature and if signed by Governor Jerry Brown, could take effect next year.

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1 Comment

  1. 25% have posted comments without revealing their real name, and that is baked into the 86% number. That is about all you need to know in terms of the thoughtfulness of this survey. How they didn’t end up at 100% is beyond me. Perhaps the 14% of Internet users don’t actually know they are using the Internet?