World+dog rushes to buy privacy tools

The world and its pooch appears to be rushing to buy security tools to keep hackers and government snoops out of their PCs, according to a new survey.

The survey – by GlobalWebIndex – said that more than 56 percent of the world felt the internet was eroding their personal privacy and more than 415 million people or 28 percent of the online population use tools to disguise their identity or location.

Adding up all the numbers and dividing by its shoe size and taking market research data from 170,000 internet users worldwide, GWI found that 11 percent of all users claim to use Tor, the most high profile for anonymising internet access.

On these figures, Tor could be regularly used by as many as 45.13 million people. Its biggest userbase appears to be in Indonesia, where 21 percent of respondents said they used the tool, followed by 18 percent in Vietnam and 15 percent in India.

Indonesia also has the world’s highest penetration of general anonymity tools among its internet users, with 42 percent using proxy servers or virtual private networks known as VPNs, which disguise the location of the user’s internet connection – their IP address – and therefore bypass regional blocks on certain content.

A third of Chinese using anonymity tools to buy pass many of its filters.

Of those that use VPN or proxies, 60 percent say they do so to access Google’s YouTube video site, and 55 percent said they use it to access Facebook and Twitter.

The use of IP-masking tools means the size of China’s Facebook and Twitter user base, for example, could be significantly larger than first thought. China’s VPN-using audience alone could be as much as 160 million people, many of whom are being incorrectly identified as living in the US.

This makes geo-located advertising ‘missing the mark’ one of the more pointless inventions out there.

It also sends a message to governments that the global internet audience is a lot better informed and more concerned about this type of thing than is traditionally supposed.

Curiously the US, UK, Germany and Ireland have a 17 percent penetration, with Japan the lowest at five per cent. The data includes those aged 16-64 for the last quarter of 2013.