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Difficult to Be Anonymous Online

More Difficult Than You Might Think to Be Anonymous Online

New research suggests browsing online leaves a unique digital signature that indicates a person’s personality. This signature can be used to identify a person, sometimes after just 30-minutes of being online.

“Our research suggests a person’s personality traits can be deduced by their general internet usage. This differs from other studies that have only looked at the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter,” said Dr. Ikusan R. Adeyemi, a research scholar at the Universiti Teknologi, Malaysia, and lead author of this new study.

“That we show these behavioral signatures exist opens up new research into understanding online behavior.”

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in ICT.

Personality traits have traditionally been linked to use of social medial. For example, studies have found that extrovert people tend to use these platforms to enlarge their boundary of friends and influence.

Conversely, introvert individuals spend more time on social media to compensate for a probable lack of physical interaction.

Researchers are also aware that a person’s general online browsing behavior can reflect their choices and preferences, actions that are largely controlled by unique psychological characteristics.

In the latest study, researchers recruited volunteers from a Malaysian university and then monitored their internet usage. The investigators followed several parameters including duration of the internet session, number of websites browsed, and total number of requests made.

In addition, the volunteers completed a test to reveal their personality characteristics over five categories: openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

The analysis of this data revealed strong links between a person’s personality and browsing behavior. For example, an individual’s level of conscientiousness could be distinguished within a 30-minute session of online browsing.

“Online marketing organizations can use our findings to reliably tailor their product to a specific audience; it can be used to develop an intelligent internet service that can predict and personalize a user’s experience,” Adeyami said.

“It can also be used as a complementary way of increasing security for online identification and authentication. Law enforcement agencies can also apply our findings in the investigation of online crime cases.”

Investigators believe additional research will help to reveal more patterns across the five personality traits. This will aid mapping an individual’s personality signature and increase understanding of online behavior.

Source: Frontiers/EurekAlert

More Difficult Than You Might Think to Be Anonymous Online

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). More Difficult Than You Might Think to Be Anonymous Online. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 8 Jun 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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