Do Americans Like Big Facebook Enough to Embrace Big Brother?

Demonstrators hold up a placard in support of former US agent of the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden in front of Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate as they take part in a protest against the U.S. National Security Agency.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Nov. 6, 2013, 3:28 p.m.

Five years ago, Face­book founder Mark Zuck­er­berg pre­dicted that as people be­came more and more de­pend­ent on so­cial me­dia and on­line com­mu­nic­a­tions, they would have few­er and few­er con­cerns about per­son­al pri­vacy.

“I would ex­pect that next year, people will share twice as much in­form­a­tion as they share this year, and next year, they will be shar­ing twice as much as they did the year be­fore,” Zuck­er­berg said in 2008.

A re­cent poll by Gal­lup seems to sug­gest Zuck­er­berg was right, though at least one pri­vacy ex­pert ques­tions the find­ings of the sur­vey con­duc­ted last month, in the midst of grow­ing rev­el­a­tions about the broad reach of Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency sur­veil­lance.

Gal­lup found that only 35 per­cent of In­ter­net users are “very con­cerned” about the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to mon­it­or their In­ter­net activ­it­ies, com­pared with 47 per­cent in 2000 — a year be­fore the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

The find­ings are sur­pris­ing in the wake of the NSA spy­ing scan­dal, and are par­tic­u­larly not­able giv­en that a sep­ar­ate Gal­lup Poll last month showed that Amer­ic­ans are en­gaged in a love fest with the In­ter­net, with even seni­or cit­izens go­ing on­line in un­pre­ced­en­ted num­bers. The poll found that 87 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans per­son­ally use the In­ter­net — up from 69 per­cent in 2002 — and the num­ber of users age 65 and older jumped 32 per­cent­age points over the past 11 years.

So how much does wired Amer­ica really care about gov­ern­ment snoop­ing?

“There’s more un­der­stand­ing now of how the tech­no­logy works and what you’re get­ting from it,” ar­gued Mi­chael Beck­er­man, pres­id­ent and CEO of the In­ter­net As­so­ci­ation, which rep­res­ents the biggest In­ter­net com­pan­ies. “People are us­ing it in a dif­fer­ent way and are more com­fort­able with it in their lives.”

Of course, that’s true of vir­tu­ally every ser­i­ous tech­no­lo­gic­al ad­vance dat­ing back to the wheel. But Beck­er­man said the trend folds in­to a lar­ger story about shift­ing at­ti­tudes on na­tion­al se­cur­ity, point­ing to changes post-9/11 that are now routine but at one time were un­con­scion­able, like full-body searches at the air­port.

Mark Jay­cox, a policy ana­lyst with the Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion, which is lob­by­ing for sur­veil­lance re­form, said he thinks the In­ter­net’s per­vas­ive­ness has only in­creased pri­vacy con­cerns.

“People will al­ways want and have a need for private space,” Jay­cox said. “Just be­cause the In­ter­net fa­cil­it­ates pub­lic out­flow of in­form­a­tion doesn’t mean there’s a co­rol­lary that people aren’t wor­ried about their on­line pri­vacy.”

Jay­cox ques­tioned Gal­lup’s polling data, and poin­ted to oth­er polls show­ing most Amer­ic­ans op­pose the NSA’s sweep­ing data-col­lec­tion pro­grams.

But op­pos­ing a spe­cif­ic pro­gram and ac­qui­es­cing to the new real­it­ies of a di­git­al age are not one and the same. In fact, sev­er­al polls in­dic­ate that a “not­able minor­ity” of Amer­ic­ans be­lieve the gov­ern­ment is do­ing more to vi­ol­ate their di­git­al pri­vacy than it really is — at least more than what has been di­vulged so far — and are still tol­er­ant in gen­er­al of sur­veil­lance, said Lee Rain­ie, dir­ect­or of the Pew Re­search Cen­ter’s In­ter­net Pro­ject. It’s the “I sus­pect the worst, and I’m still OK with it” caucus, he ad­ded.

“Resig­na­tion doesn’t show up very much” in polling data, Rain­ie said. “But there are def­in­itely signs that people are think­ing about tradeoffs.”

The polls by Gal­lup were both con­duc­ted Oct. 3-6 and both have mar­gins of er­ror of plus or minus 4 per­cent­age points. The poll on pri­vacy con­cerns sur­veyed 887 In­ter­net users and the poll on In­ter­net us­age was con­duc­ted among 1,028 adults.

What We're Following See More »
ECONOMY STABILIZING
Fed Leaves Rates Alone, but Signals Hikes to Come
48 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

The Federal Open Market Committee today voted to leave interest rates alone, but "upgraded its assessment of the economy’s recent performance and said near-term risks to the outlook have diminished, effectively leaving the door open to raise rates later this year, possibly as early as September."

Source:
CHARM OFFENSIVE
Pence Is Trump’s Man on Capitol Hill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Spurred by VP pick Mike Pence, a former congressman with close ties to many lawmakers, the Trump campaign in recent weeks has stepped up its courtship of wary Capitol Hill Republicans. And the efforts appear to be bearing fruit." Central to the charm offensive: invitations to more than a dozen "Senate and House members into his family’s private box for some power-schmoozing with him and his kids" during the Republican National Convention.

Source:
PAUL RYAN: STOP IT
Trump Encourages More Spying by Russia
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump essentially encouraged more Russian espionage against Democrats in a press conference this morning. "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” That prompted Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan to say: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Source:
ONE MORE INVESTIGATION
IRS Investigating Clinton Foundation
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Investigations are never far from the Clintons, and here's another: At the behest of "dozens" of Republican lawmakers, the IRS is opening a fraud investigation into the Clinton Foundation."The move signals a shift from the IRS's announcement last year that it would not look into allegations of financial irregularities at the well-connected charity."

Source:
INFIGHTING AMONG COMMISSIONERS TO BLAME
Report Details Terrible Morale at FEC
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Bickering commissioners, ineffective managers and lousy internal communication rank among the top reasons why the Federal Election Commission" has some of the worst morale in the federal government. That's the conclusion of an inspector general's report, which put "the most blame on the FEC’s six commissioners: three Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees who have regularly criticized one another and frequently (but not exclusively) deadlocked on high-profile political issues before them."

Source:
×