September 5, 2013

Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online

Part 5: Online Identity Theft, Security Issues, and Reputational Damage

An array of woes has struck some internet users when personal information of theirs was compromised or some of their online activities put them in conflict with others:

  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over without their permission.
  • 12% have been stalked or harassed online.
  • 11% have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.
  • 6% have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.
  • 6% have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.
  • 4% have had something happen online that led them into physical danger.

In addition to those instances when personal information and personal identity have been at the center of a problem, 13% of internet users report they have experienced trouble in a relationship between them and a family member or a friend because of something they posted. And 1% say they have lost a job opportunity or educational opportunity because of something they posted online or someone posted about them online.

Online younger adults—those ages 18-29—are the most likely to have experienced some of these troubles, including have an email or social media account taken over, being stalked or harassed online, suffering reputational damage, or being in physical danger based on online events.

Overall, 55% of the internet users ages 18-29 have experienced at least one of this array of problems, compared with 42% of those ages 30-49, 30% of those ages 50-64 and 24% of those ages 65 and older.

young adults are the most likely to have had several but not all majory problems with personal information and identity

Low-income internet users are more likely to report negative experiences

In addition to the age differences when it comes to these problems, there are also times when poorer internet users are among the most likely to be victimized. For instance, the internet users who live in households earning less than $30,000 are particularly likely to have suffered a problem from their online activities:

  • Had an email or social media account compromised
  • Experienced trouble in a relationship between themselves and others
  • Been stalked or harassed online
  • Had their reputation damaged by online activity
  • Been put in physical danger after online activity

poor internet users are more likely to report negative outcomes

Cite this publication: Lee Rainie, Sara Kiesler, Ruogu Kang and Mary Madden. “Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (September 5, 2013) http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/09/05/anonymity-privacy-and-security-online/, accessed on July 23, 2014.