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86% of Internet users take action to become less visible

Almost all Internet users are taking steps to cover their tracks with significant worries existing about personal information that is being kept online.

A study undertaken by the Pew Research Center and Carnegie Mellon University shows that 86 per cent of adult Internet users have taken some kind of action to become less visible on the Internet.

“Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible. 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,” said Lee Rainie, director of Pew’s Internet Project and one of the authors responsible for the Anonymity, Privacy and Security Online report.

The report, which surveyed 792 Internet users, found that users employed a variety of different methods to mask their footprint online. The most popular was clearing cookies and browser history with 64 per cent choosing to do so and 41 per cent of users deleted or edited something posted in the past or set their Internet browser to disable or switch off cookies.

Another popular way to mask their identity is not to use websites that ask for a real name with 36 per cent deciding against using those that do so. The survey also found a large number have already been victims of information being stolen online with 21 per cent having a social media or email account taken over by someone else without permission.

Additionally, 55 per cent of users have taken steps in order to avoid being subject of surveillance from the government or being observed by specific people or organisations.