A mid-July phone survey found that 30% of adult respondents have listed their home address online.

And 21% have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else.

People in lower income brackets are more likely to experience problems with their personal information online.

2013-09-11

Co.Exist

Ever Been Twitter/Email/Facebook-Hacked? You're Not Alone

True, the government is spying on us. But given that 21% of Americans have had an online account compromised, the real reason a growing number of people feel their information is vulnerable may be due to their own bad privacy habits.

No matter where the nation falls in its collective moral judgment of Edward Snowden and the value of his NSA leaks, recent survey data has shown that hyper-awareness of online privacy has changed our habits. As of July, more people are disabling cookies, editing profiles, using encryption services, and Googling how to install those encryption services than before. But a new survey out from the Pew Research Center’s Internet Program and Carnegie Mellon University sheds light on other reasons why we might feel like our information is vulnerable: It could be because many of us have been screwed over by our bad privacy habits on the Internet already.

In a mid-July phone survey of 1,002 Internet users over the age of 18, researchers found that 21% have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else. More than 10% had social security, credit card, or bank account info stolen at some point, while 12% reported being stalked or harassed online. What's more, 13% said they've experienced family or friend problems because of a posting they've made online, validating fears that foot-in-mouth syndrome has indeed made the leap from in-person communication to online hosts.

Source: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Omnibus Survey

Of course, much of that could be our own damn fault. The same survey showed that a majority of users had a photo of themselves online, while half had posted a birth date. Some 46% and 24% said their email address and cell phone numbers were publicly available (respectively), and 30% listed their home address online.

Source: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Omnibus Survey

Still, 59% of those surveyed believed there was no true way to trawl cyberspace anonymously, and 86% reported efforts to avoid being tracked. And while the survey showed that young adults were the most willing to put their personal information online, those with household earnings under $30,000 were most likely to be taken advantage of.

Source: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Omnibus Survey

As the recent NSA revelations affirm, and what lack of regulations governing online advertising/privacy indicate, it likely is pretty tough to venture online and leave no trace.

Yet, short of employing increasingly advanced cryptography techniques, there are simpler ways to decrease the likelihood of a hacker logging into your Gmail account from a foreign country, or briefly hijacking your Facebook account to tell all your friends about that awesome new weight loss technique by CLICKING HERE !!!!111ONE11!1!! This is a good place to start. Other bits of common sense--like not making every single password the name of your first, most dearly loved pet or sexting via Twitter--also prevail.

[Image: Hacker via Shutterstock]

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