The Exchange

Most Want to Keep Secret Online Info About Exes or Losing Weight

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online privacy
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Using the internet

By now most of us know that everything we do online – every blender we search for on Amazon, every article we read about Miley Cyrus -- leaves a trace. But two-thirds of Americans say they’ve searched for something online that they’d want to keep private, according to a new survey.

The most sensitive searched information was about medical conditions and new careers, according to the survey, done by Harris Interactive for Ask.com. About 38% of respondents said they had searched about medical conditions they wanted to keep private, while 30% did job searches and 25% looked for sexual content.

Another 16% wanted to keep private searches about weight loss and 14% had looked up the status of former girlfriends or boyfriends.

The survey didn't cover the techniques people actually used to hide their tracks, which could range from simply erasing a browser's history to using special software that hides nearly all digital traces. And people aren't just covering up their web searches. One of the most popular instant messaging programs, called SnapChat, erases text of conversations, too.

Younger people were more likely to search for topics they wanted to keep private. Of people aged 18 to 34, 78% said they had done such searches vs. 59% of people 35 and over, the survey found. And 67% of men were likely to have searched for something they wish to keep private, compared with 60% of women.

Respondents sought to hide their queries most frequently from adult members of their family, 42% of people polled said, or work colleagues, 41% said. Thirty-five percent of people wanted to hide material from their significant other, 35% from their friends and 33% from their children.

Just over half, or 53%, of searchers looked up non-work related information while they were at work. That included 36% who said they were online shopping, 28% exploring travel, 16% looking for new jobs and 14% checking celebrity news.

Harris polled 2,022 U.S. adults aged 18 and older between Sept. 4 and 6.

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