Nearly Half of Americans Want Government to Monitor Everyone's Email, Phone Records
June 11, 2013 10:11 AM
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Majority approves of government tracking phone records (and by proxy location)
by the non-partisan
Pew Research Center
suggests that for all the attention paid by the media,
, and civil rights advocates
regarding government spying
, the majority of Americans are
okay with their federal government spying on them
to an extent.
The survey reports that 56 percent of Americans think its fine for the government to seize daily phone records of millions of Americans, most of whom have never committed a crime. These records can be used to track a person's position over time. Only 41 percent of respondents opposed the seizures.
Further, nearly half of Americans (45 percent) want the government to monitor everyone's email to fight terrorism, while only a little more than half (52 percent) want to keep their email private. This is nearly identical to 2002, when 45 percent of people supported email monitoring and 52 percent opposed it.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, partisan politics continue to be a route both of America's ruling parties use to convince people to embrace their bipartisan monitoring efforts. In Jan. 2006, 61 percent of self-identified Democrats opposed monitoring, versus only 23 percent of Republicans. At the time 75 percent of Republicans supported surveillance programs by the
U.S. National Security Agency
Nearly one out of every two Americans is fine with the government tracking them and reading their email. [Image Source: CNN]
Today, nearly twice as many Republicans (47 percent) oppose monitoring, while only about half as many (34 percent) Democrats oppose it. It appears that for many Americans they only oppose the government spying on them if it’s the political party they don't like. Similar trends are observed on the topic of email monitoring.
Also perhaps predictable is the fact that support of a police state and 24-7 surveillance increases with age. Among people age 18-29, 45 percent think the government should prioritize privacy over security, while for individuals age 65+ only 25 percent feel privacy is most important.
Also interesting is the fact that only a fourth of Americans are monitoring the NSA news story closely -- less Americans than the NSA is authorized to monitor, ironically. While older people tend to have the least opposition to government monitoring, counter intuitively they're following the
news about the NSA leaks
The survey of 1,004 individuals was conducted by
Princeton Data Source
. The results were weighted based on the demographics of the individual and census statistics.
Pew Research Center
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6/11/2013 2:44:00 PM
These discussions have almost certainly been going since government existed! The thing is governments in ancient times up to about 50 years ago always had trouble answering the question: "Who watches the watchers?", as the bureaucracy for maintaining a human network that keeps tabs on everyone was untenable. NOW, computers are the watchers and a relatively small group of people can keep tabs on "the watchers" while gathering increasingly meaningful information from these systems.
In short, we are coming to a point human society has never been at before: the point where a surveillance society is a real possibility. Pretending it's not a problem is asking for something bad to happen.
"This is about the Internet. Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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