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Half of Internet users worry over personal info exposed online

Concerns over personal information revealed online are up significantly from 30 percent in 2009, according to a new Pew Internet study.

Pew Internet

A full 50 percent of Internet users surveyed say they're concerned about the growing amount of personal information revealed about them online.

A study released Thursday by Pew Internet found that more people are worried about certain information now available online, including photos, videos, e-mail addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, home addresses, and groups to which they belong. The 50 percent cited in the poll is a jump from just 30 percent in 2009.

Surveying 792 Internet users about online privacy and anonymity, Pew also discovered that 86 percent of those polled have taken steps to protect themselves in cyberspace. Those steps include clearing their browser cookies, encrypting their email, avoiding use of their real name, using virtual networks, and spoofing their IP address. Further, 55 percent have taken steps to elude monitoring by specific people, groups, and the government.

Despite the efforts of many of those surveyed, 59 percent of the Internet users don't think it's possible to be completely anonymous online. And 68 percent feel that current laws don't go far enough to protect one's online privacy.

A fair percentage of people have already run into trouble online. Among those polled, 21 percent have seen their e-mail or social network accounts compromised, 12 percent have been stalked or harrassed online, and 6 percent said their reputation was hurt because of something that happened online.

"Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible," Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project and the author of the report on the survey, said 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."

Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, the survey polled people via phone interviews from July 11 to 14, 2013.