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More Internet users take precautions to avoid surveillance

Thursday - 9/5/2013, 4:40am  ET

computer mouse keyboard (Thinkstock)
In the study, 12 percent of participants have been stalked or harassed online. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Many think it's not possible to remain anonymous online, and many others are working to block their information from getting out.

These findings are in a new survey from the Pew Research Center's Internet Project.

Director Lee Rainie says their latest research shows about 55 percent of those online now take steps to avoid being watched and 86 percent have taken steps to avoid being watched by specific people, organizations or the government.

Rainie says some of this is perception, but he notes that 21 percent of adults say their email or social media accounts have been hacked and 11 percent say their vital information, such as social security numbers or financial data, has been stolen.

Among the survey's other results:

  • 12 percent have been stalked or harassed online
  • 6 percent have been the victim of an online scam and lost money
  • 6 percent have have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online
  • 4 percent have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online

Many people say they have withheld or changed information about themselves to hide their identity. About one-third said they did that to hide from hackers and criminals, one-fourth said they were hiding from advertisers, and 5 percent said they were hiding from law enforcement or the government.

The survey, taken by telephone in July, also found that 68 percent of participants said they believe the laws are not effective in protecting their online privacy.

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