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.
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.
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.
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.
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