Concern High About Both NSA and Corporate Surveillance Among Americans Polled

While I was semi-disconnected from the grid over the holidays, one of the things I missed was an article in the Washington Post detailing the results of a poll on Americans’ privacy attitudes. The article, which contains lots of “man on the street” interviews with a range of views on privacy (including the usual “I have nothing to hide” viewpoint), correctly points out that in the interpersonal realm, “there are not yet widely accepted norms about who may watch whom and when and where tracking is justified.”

But the main takeaway from the poll is that Americans express very high levels of concern about the threat to their privacy from social networks, cellphone providers, web sites “such as Google, Amazon or eBay” and the NSA. Roughly 70% said they were concerned about each, with only around 30% not at all or “not too” concerned. It is interesting that there are no significant differences between Americans’ concern over government and private-sector spying. Perhaps the reality of the Surveillance-Industrial Complex is sinking in.

A couple other observations and comments on the poll:

  • The hook of the article was that Americans express concern about privacy but also use snooping tools themselves. This is not surprising and there’s no paradox here. To begin with, privacy has always been a question of power, so (as I discussed here) there is an inherent structural incentive to spy on others, to gain the insights and advantages of doing so, while not being spied upon oneself. The legitimacy of monitoring also varies; as the article acknowledges, parent-child monitoring is vastly different from government-citizen monitoring.
  • There’s also a big difference between monitoring with the subject’s knowledge (as in the parent-child examples cited in the article) and secret spying (as in the NSA’s metadata and other programs). The poll asked people if they’d ever monitored their co-workers “without their knowledge” (only 3% admitted to doing so). It also asked those living with a partner if they’d ever monitored their partner’s “internet usage or location through their cell phone,” and 6% said yes—but the poll didn’t ask if that was without their knowledge, so those answering “yes” probably include those who use commonly available mutual-tracking apps. Fully 60% of respondents with children said they monitor their internet usage—but again the poll did not ask whether that was with or without the children’s knowledge, and that is an important distinction.
  • Only 17% say they have “ever” “encrypted [their] communications” to protect their privacy. As my colleague Christopher Soghoian pointed out to me, this is false because Americans use encryption every time they enter a credit card to buy something, every time they write an email through the webmail interface of Gmail, Hotmail and now even Yahoo Mail, and every time they send a tweet—because all of those sites use HTTPS to automatically encrypt their communications. The fact that consumers don’t realize they are encrypting their communications against passive network surveillance, even though HTTPS protects hundreds of millions of people every day, demonstrates the power of privacy by design. What we need are more services that include encryption without requiring any configuration by the user.
  • Only 13% say they have ever “used a fake name or other false information” to protect their privacy. This was surprising to me. It’s touching that Americans carry over their norms and habits of honesty, which are so socially beneficial within communities of any kind, to interactions with giant technology corporations. But it seems to me that when a prying company is forcing you to turn over personal information, and uses and abuses that information in untold ways, there is often no reason whatsoever to turn over true information about yourself, and much reason not to. I believe all moral imperatives for truthfulness are inoperative in those circumstances.
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"But it seems to me that when a prying company is forcing you to turn over personal information, and uses and abuses that information in untold ways, there is often no reason whatsoever to turn over true information about yourself, and much reason not to."

Exactly. IMO, the best way to fight the rampant data collection practices of private and public agencies is to provide them with misinformation wherever possible. De-value the data they collect.


When you allow the Feds to "connect the dots" based on data sets, bad assumptions will result and citizens will be injured and our rights eroded.

I think that I heard the Germans believe that their data, belongs to them. In our case, the data has already escaped, but I favor this approach. I would at least like to know who has my data, and how to edit it.

Jeffrey Field

I've been urging our local school board to issue a warning to all high school students that everything they do online, whether at school or at home, is subject to being intercepted, collected and stored at databases around the country. So far I've been ignored. This is not an isolated case - I know of no school board in this country which has issued such a warning to their students. Why is that? What am I missing here?


NSA and JNLWD are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police implanting people with biochips. Read "A Note on Uberveillance" by M. G. and Katina Michael. it enables Uberveillance. “In its ultimate form, überveillance has to do with more than automatic identification technologies that we carry with us. It has to do with under-the-skin technology that is embedded in the body, such as microchip implants; it is that which cuts into the flesh – a charagma (mark). Think of it as Big Brother on the inside looking out.” Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. Law enforcement believes we will only be safe if they know where we are at all times, what we are doing and what we are thinking! See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. He states, “Of late, there are reports of a new and dreadful invention of weapons of violence that are called Bioelectromagnetic Weapons. According to the description by an Institute of Science in Society, these weapons operate at the speed of light, can kill, torture and enslave without making physical appearance. It further adds that voices and visions, daydreams and nightmares are the most astonishing manifestations of this weapon system, it is also capable of crippling the human subject by limiting his/her normal range of movement, causing acute pain the equivalent of major organ failure or even death and interferes with normal functions of human senses. It can cause difficulty with breathing and induce seizures besides damage to the tissues and organs. Through this form of terrorism, it is possible to persuade subjects that their mind is being read; their intellectual property is being plundered and can even motivate suicide or murder. Pulsed Energy projectiles (PEPs) are another form of weaponry that is used to paralyze a victim with pain. According to Peter Philips, a scientist from USA, circumstances may soon arrive in which anti-war or human right protestors suddenly feel a burning sensation akin to touching a hot skillet over their entire body. Simultaneously they may hear terrifying nauseating screaming, which while not produced externally, fills their brains with overwhelming disruption. This new invention is dreadful addition to the armamentarium of weapons of abuse and torture. Manifestations of the effects of these occult weapons can mimic mental ill health and add further to the misery of the victims.” See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into "excited delirium" (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they're being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner's book "A Long Walk". I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable! You can check your upper right buttock, upper right shoulder. They are just under the skin. I have been in excruciating pain for six years due to corruption in Virginia.

Vicki B.

The GRID. That's too reminiscent of that movie the Matrix. And if any of these government GOONS have SEEN that movie, along with having 2 brain cells to rub together, they wouldn't be messing with such things.
In the movie our over-reliance on digital information caused the apocalypse to occur and Keanu Reeves character was sent back into the matrix destroy it so people would know that they're being lied to and that the world they think exists is really an apocalyptic wasteland that reminds me of the poem of the same name. Or Stephen King's book of the same name.

All three - The Matrix, Eliot's Wasteland and King's Wasteland - are too creepy to contemplate.
But I don't guess g(oon)-men are into much reading or they'd at least heed the warnings you can find in the Matrix movie.
"Fiction is the truth beneath the lie." --Stephen King
They better take an interest in trying to find it.

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