Most Americans Are Clueless About Private Browsing

Security

New research has found that only a quarter of Americans know that surfing the internet in private browsing mode only prevents other users of the same computer from seeing what you’ve been up to online.

A survey conducted in June by the Pew Research Center asked 4,272 adults living in the United States ten digital knowledge questions. When asked to identify the correct definition of private browsing, 24% of respondents got it wrong, and 49% admitted to being unsure. 

The overall findings of the research reveal that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues varies greatly depending on the topic, term, or concept. While 67% knew that phishing scams can occur on social media, websites, email, or text messages, only 29% were in the know about WhatsApp and Instagram being owned by social media titan Facebook. 

Researchers wrote: “Just 28% of adults can identify an example of two-factor authentication—one of the most important ways experts say people can protect their personal information on sensitive accounts.”

On average, survey respondents were able to correctly answer only four out of the ten questions they were asked. What caused the most confusion was when participants were asked to identify Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, from a picture.  

Interestingly, respondents were pretty savvy when it came to the commercial side of social media, with 59% recognizing that advertising is the largest source of revenue for most social media platforms. 

Most respondents were aware of what the kind of cookie that can’t be dipped in milk is all about. While 27% said they were unsure what a cookie is for, 63% knew that they allow websites to track user visits and site activity.  

How much education an individual had obtained had an impact on the results. Adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree answered a median of six questions correctly, compared with three answered by those who had, at most, a high school diploma.

Age, too, had an effect, with 18- to 29-year-olds correctly answering five out of 10 questions on average, while those aged 65 or older typically gave just three right answers.

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