News flash: Americans remain conflicted on government data gathering

US flag, propaganda, PRISM

Fifty-percent of Americans seem to have no huge beef overall with the U.S. government’s data collection programs as exemplified by the NSA PRISM program, according to the latest Pew Research survey.

But, the just-released research shows that citizens do have mixed feelings about the program; More than half — or 56 percent — said they felt there was not sufficient court supervision of what data is collected but 50 percent approved of the program overall compared to 44 percent who disapproved. Six percent don’t know or, presumably, don’t care.

Pew1

Despite assurances to the contrary, 63 percent think the government is going beyond metadata to grab up the actual content of communications and nearly a third (27 percent) believe the government is listening to or reading their own personal communications

Once again, younger people were more concerned about government incursions than their elders and once again, this surprises me. I would have thought that younger people, who are more used to sharing information about their private lives on social networks, would be less upset about the practice.

The survey reinforces earlier results that also showed younger citizens were more irked at government snooping and that in general U.S. citizens seem to think that sacrificing privacy is the price to be paid for better security — a stance that some technologists, including former Microsoft top software guy Ray Ozzie, find perplexing. Ozzie thinks that American citizens blithely gave up valuable privacy rights when Congress enacted the Patriot Act after 9/11 and have been paying a high price ever since.

Skeptics feel that the net result of all this data gathering has not been better security at all, and point to the Boston Marathon bombings as a top example of that.

This survey is based on phone interviews that took place between July 17 through 31 of 1,480 adults who are 18 years old or older in all 50 states.pew2

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