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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
US internet use rises as do fears
Computer use in a US school
Schoolchildren most likely to use computers for homework
More Americans go online from home than ever before, official figures show.

Data gathered by the US Census Bureau in 2003 shows that 55% of Americans are connected from home, while wealthier, more educated families are most likely of all to use the internet.

But as net use has risen, so too have fears about identity theft and other online dangers.

Almost 90% of Americans had changed their behaviour online due to net crime concerns, reported a consumer watchdog.

Net gains

The figures from October 2003 but are the most recent released by the Census Bureau on computer and internet use in the US.

They show that home net use was highest in the states of Alaska, New Hampshire and Colorado. Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana were bottom of the table.

The figures also revealed that computer ownership and net use seem to go hand-in-hand. The percentage of computer owning homes, 62%, was only slightly ahead of home net use.

Education, income and school age children were all big factors in determining whether the internet was in use in a home. In homes where incomes topped $100,000 (56,000) computer ownership was found to be 95% and 92% were online.

Americans who did not graduate from high school were the least likely group to use the net.

Of those not using the net, 39% said they did not need it and 23% said it was too expensive.

Online habits

Though more Americans are online, research by the Consumer Reports WebWatch coalition has found that more people are reacting to the potential dangers on the net.

Of those questioned, 86% said they had made at least one change in their online behaviour as a result of greater knowledge about identity theft, credit card fraud and hack attacks that stole large amounts of confidential personal data.

As well as stopping buying online, the survey found that 30% of those questioned had cut back on net use and 29% said they were reducing their online spending.

More than half of respondents, 54%, were also more likely to read a site's privacy notices or consumer policies before buying.

In a bid to help consumers stay safe online, the Anti-Spyware Coalition has released guidelines that help people judge if software is good or bad.

The rating system produced by the group of anti-spyware firms and consumer organisations assigns risk levels to the different things that spyware and adware programs do.

Bad programs install themselves without a user's permission or bundle in other unwanted programs when they are installed.

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