Amid the many reports coming from a string of NSA leaks, Americans are struggling to cover their Internet tracks, according to recent survey results from the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and Carnegie Mellon University.
The Pew Research Center report said 86 percent of U.S. Internet users have taken some steps to avoid online surveillance by other people or organizations. These steps include clearing cookies and encrypting e-mails.
The survey polled a total of 792 Internet users. Among the respondents, a notable number experienced issues due to theft of personal information. Of those, 21 percent have had an e-mail or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.
“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, 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.”
Image via Shutterstock
Some users delete material they have posted in the past, create usernames that are hard to tie to them, use public computers to browse, or give inaccurate information about themselves.
Approximately 14 percent of the users say they use services like virtual networks that allow them to browse without being tied to a specific Internet protocol (IP) address.
"Our team's biggest surprise was discovering that many Internet users have tried to conceal their identity or their communications from others," noted Sara Kiesler, an author of the report and a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University.
It wasn’t long ago that a report from the Washington Post showed that the National Security Agency in the United States violated privacy rules thousands of times since 2008.
According to internal NSA audits leaked to the paper, privacy breaches have occurred 2,776 times in one year ending in May 2012, consisting of mostly “unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States.”
"Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure," the Post article said. "The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders."
"We take each report seriously, investigate the matter, address the issue, constantly look for trends, and address them as well - all as a part of NSA's internal oversight and compliance efforts," John DeLong, the NSA's director of compliance, told the BBC in response to the documents released by the Washington Post.
Edited by Alisen Downey