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Study: 73% of Americans worry about being tracked online

Digital privacy expert reveals that people can be tracked by almost any device connected to the internet

A new survey by the cybersecurity company NordVPN reveals that 73% of Americans worry about being tracked online, and 35% think they are monitored almost at all times. However, experts say that people make themselves trackable by accepting cookies, using public Wi-Fi, and even having a smartwatch: these are just some of the many ways to collect their data. 

"It's not only cybercriminals who want your data. Social media networks, ISPs, third-party organizations, websites, and governmental institutions regularly collect users' personal data and browsing habits for marketing or other purposes. They frequently use cookies to track your digital footprints," adds Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

60% of Americans believe that they are tracked by cybercriminals

The majority of Americans believe that they are mostly tracked by criminals (60%) and social media giants like Facebook (46%). It's not surprising they also feel that Facebook (78%), WhatsApp (15%), and Instagram (42%) collect the biggest amount of their users' data. Ironically, all three services belong to the same company. It's worth adding that more than half of Americans (63%) feel that apps ask for more information than necessary. 

Americans also worry about brands or advertising agencies (34%), information and advertising aggregators like Google (40%), and the government (47%) following their activities online. 

Americans are most afraid of getting their banking or financial information hacked

The survey showed that Americans are most afraid of getting their banking or financial information (62%) and passwords (54%) hacked. They are also anxious about hacked emails (19%), personal or intimate photos, videos (14%), and browsing history (12%). 

Even though Americans are afraid of getting their financial information hacked, almost half (44%) save their banking log-in details on various devices, which is dangerous. "Entering your credit card details every time you buy something online might not seem convenient, but this is the right thing to do. The internet is not a safe place, and you shouldn't trust third parties with your details," says Daniel Markuson from NordVPN.

How are Americans tracked? 

People use smartphones all day, every day - for work, fun, to get in touch with friends, or to order groceries. Perhaps that's why 80% of Americans believe that their mobile phones are the best way to track them online, followed by laptops or desktop computers (71% and 66%, respectively) and tablets (62%). At the same time, few people consider smart home appliances capable of spying - they were named the least likely culprits.

When it comes to the utilization of people's online data, the majority of Americans believe it is used for targeted ads (61%) and sold to other companies (61%). While thinking that cybercriminals track Americans the most, people also assume that their data is analyzed to steal their identity (48%). 

The study also found 19% of Americans always allow cookies, and 23% do so unless it looks suspicious - only 7% never accept them. 

"Another area where people often get caught out is accepting cookies. They can track and collect data from your browser and send that data back to the website owner. If you don't decline third-party cookies, the website can sell your browsing data to those third parties," comments Daniel Markuson from NordVPN.

Wi-fi gets people online in exchange for valuable personal sign-up data

"When you use free Wi-Fi, there is a good chance it's managed by a third-party provider, which gets you online in exchange for your valuable sign-up data such as email address, social media profile, and phone number.

What might surprise you is that some hotspot providers are taking data collection a step further. They quietly track millions of users' whereabouts even after they have left the establishment," reveals Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. 

Americans are most likely to log into their personal emails (46%) and use social media channels with auto log-ins (42%) while on public Wi-Fi. Additionally, many people used public Wi-Fi to log into other accounts (37%) and buy from online retailers (24%). 

"While we are always tracked in one way or another whenever we go online, you can and should minimize it. Get a VPN to hide your IP and location, use a privacy browser, ditch Google which tracks a lot of data about you, and just be more careful online. Keep your good cyber hygiene habits to stay safe," adds Daniel Markuson. 

If you would like to become less trackable, check our experts' recommendations here:

Published Monday, January 03, 2022 2:10 PM by David Marshall
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