Peak indifference-to-surveillance


The Pew Internet Project has updated its must-read 2013 work on privacy perception in the post-Snowden era with a survey of American attitudes to privacy and surveillance that shows that the number of Americans who worry about privacy is steeply rising.

Judging from the FBI's calls for back-doors in phones and the unrepentant NSA, it's unlikely that we've reached peak surveillance -- the Internet of Things opens the door to a world of surveillance that we can barely imagine (just remember that every smart house that can accept voice commands and gestural interfaces must have cameras and mics in every room).

However, the Pew study shows that Americans continue to worry about private and state surveillance, and that there's a great, unfulfilled market demand for privacy protection and services that respect privacy. It's a hopeful sign.

* 91% of adults in the survey “agree” or “strongly agree” that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.

* 88% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that it would be very difficult to remove inaccurate information about them online.

* 80% of those who use social networking sites say they are concerned about third parties like advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share on these sites.

* 70% of social networking site users say that they are at least somewhat concerned about the government accessing some of the information they share on social networking sites without their knowledge.

* Yet, even as Americans express concern about government access to their data, they feel as though government could do more to regulate what advertisers do with their personal information: 80% of adults “agree” or “strongly agree” that Americans should be concerned about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and internet communications. Just 18% “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with that notion.

* 64% believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers, compared with 34% who think the government should not get more involved.

* Only 36% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “It is a good thing for society if people believe that someone is keeping an eye on the things that they do online.”

Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era [Mary Madden/Pew]

(Image: James, I think your cover's blown!, Ludovic Bertron, CC-BY)

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