Americans are stockpiling their privacy. According to a new Pew survey, 86 percent of Internet users across the country have taken measures to delete or mask their digital footprints. They clear their cookies, encrypt emails, and log on to networks that obscure their IP addresses.
Presumably, the recent drive to hide our tracks on the Web stems from a string of news reports detailing just how much of the average citizen’s online activity the U.S. intelligence community can tap. But some of the most interesting numbers from the national survey aren’t related to the threat of digital snooping by the government.
A sizable 21 percent of Internet users have had their e-mail or social-media accounts hacked. Recent hacks of major publications and corporations’ websites and Twitter accounts show that, these days, no one is safe, not even the king bee Mark Zuckerberg, whose Facebook page was compromised last month to reveal a security flaw.
For the average citizen, such hacks usually come from criminals with an Internet connection. Eleven percent of users said they’ve had personal information, such as their credit-card or bank information and Social Security number, stolen online.
Half of Internet users are worried about the trove of personal information about them — birth dates, phone numbers, addresses — floating around on the Web. But what are average citizens really doing about it? They could add a few extra numbers or special characters to their dozens of passwords, but even that is ultimately futile. A report by Deloitte found early this year that more than 90 percent of user-generated passwords are vulnerable to hacking.
What happens on the Internet doesn’t always stay on the Internet, either. Thirteen percent of survey participants said something they posted online has gotten them in trouble with family members or friends off the Web. About 12 percent have been stalked or harassed online. Six percent have taken a hit to their real-life reputations because of events that transpired online, and 4 percent have found themselves in physical danger as a result of online activity.
According to the survey, 68 percent of Internet users think current laws are not successful enough in protecting their privacy online. But for the most part, it seems like many users have accepted the inevitable risks of living online. Even as they make moves to protect their online activity, 59 percent of Internet users don’t think it’s possible to remain completely anonymous.
Then again, a different statistic suggests Americans may be more apathetic about their privacy online than this Pew survey suggests: 47 percent say the media shouldn’t report on the government’s classified antiterrorism efforts, which includes secret surveillance of average citizens.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."