Despite Snowden Leaks, Internet use is Largely Unchanged

Thanks to the Snowden documents, first covered by The Guardian and The Washington Post, the world learned about the Prism program, which allegedly gave the NSA access to communications from nine tech companies, including Yahoo and Google. At the time, it was also revealed that the NSA systematically collected the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon Communication.

 pew_internet_american_life_logo.jpg   
Since then, some Internet users worried about protecting their privacy have made basic changes to their online activities, like adjusting their privacy settings or deleting rogue apps. But most people have carried on as usual, uninterested in using encryption or identity-cloaking browsers like Tor, according to a study carried out by the Pew Research Centre. Roughly a third of respondents didn't even know what Tor is.
    
The Pew survey, conducted online between this past November and January, is the research center's first look at how people have changed their online behaviors to avoid government surveillance. In a related study late last year, Pew researchers found that the majority of Americans felt they had lost control of their personal data.
    
Some people have taken action. Roughly 30 percent of respondents said they had taken at least one step to hide or shield information from the government, according to the study's findings, which were based on a survey of 475 American adults. For example, among those who said they were aware of government surveillance programs, 17 percent said they have changed their privacy settings on social media. Thirteen percent said they have uninstalled certain apps since the Snowden leaks. Twenty-five percent said they now use more complex passwords.
    
    Some 15 percent said they now use social media less often, while 11 percent have refrained from using certain terms in search engines they thought would trigger scrutiny.
    
But many more responded by saying they have not made wholesale changes to their online activities, or said they were not aware of other tools for more comprehensive online privacy. For example, among those who said they were aware of government surveillance programs, 40 percent said they have not used or considered using anonymity software like Tor.
    
Nearly half said they have not used email encryption technology like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), which scrambles people's messages either en route or while at rest on company servers. Nearly a third said they did not know that technology existed. Over the past couple of years, more messaging apps like WhatsApp have baked encryption into their products, while others like Google and now Yahoo have released source code for encrypted messaging.
    
Fewer than half of respondents said they have used or considered using a search engine that doesn't keep logs of users' search history. (DuckDuckGo, for example, is a privacy-oriented search engine that does save searches, but not people's IP addresses or other unique identifiers.)
    
More than 40 percent said they have not used or were not aware of browser plugins like Privacy Badger for blocking tracking.
    
Overall, the majority of respondents said it would be difficult to find tools or implement strategies to help them be more private. The findings show that activists and companies making privacy-oriented products still have much to do in educating consumers about the strongest ways to secure their digital communications.
    
Or, the results may show that some people just don't care.

    zd net http://ow.ly/KILT8

    zdnet  http://ow.ly/KIM3i

    computerworld  http://ow.ly/KIM73

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