According to the results of a recent survey by the Pew Reseach Center's Internet & American Life Project, 86 percent of Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their e-mail -- and 55 percent have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government.

"Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible," Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, said in a statement. "Their concerns apply to an entire ecosystem of surveillance. In fact, they are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government."

The survey of 792 adult Internet users, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from July 11-14, 2013, and underwritten by Carnegie Mellon University, also found that 21 percent of Internet users have had an e-mail or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission, and 12 percent have been stalked or harassed online.

Eleven percent of respondents have had important personal information stolen online, such as their Social Security numbers, credit card number, or bank account information, 6 percent have lost money to an online scam, 6 percent have had their reputation damaged by online activity, and 4 percent have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.