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What, me worry? Despite Snowden leaks, Americans' use of the 'Net largely unchanged

Zach Miners | March 17, 2015
Don't worry, be happy. That seems to be the attitude most Americans have toward widespread government snooping on their Internet activities.

Nearly half said they have not used email encryption technology like PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), which scrambles people's messages either en route or while at rest on company servers. Nearly a third said they did not know that technology existed. Over the past couple of years, more messaging apps like WhatsApp have baked encryption into their products, while others like Google and now Yahoo have released source code for encrypted messaging.

Fewer than half of respondents said they have used or considered using a search engine that doesn't keep logs of users' search history. (DuckDuckGo, for example, is a privacy-oriented search engine that does save searches, but not people's IP addresses or other unique identifiers.)

More than 40 percent said they have not used or were not aware of browser plugins like Privacy Badger for blocking tracking.

Overall, the majority of respondents said it would be difficult to find tools or implement strategies to help them be more private.

The findings show that activists and companies making privacy-oriented products still have much to do in educating consumers about the strongest ways to secure their digital communications.

Or, the results may show that some people just don't care.

Respondents were split on their level of concern about government surveillance programs that monitor people's phones and digital communications. While 52 percent said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned, 46 percent said they were "not very" or "not at all" concerned.

There were no partisan differences when it came to those who have changed their use of technology.

The survey also revealed how Americans feel about spying on people in other countries. While 57 percent said they oppose monitoring U.S. citizens, 54 percent said it was OK to monitor foreign citizens. More than 80 percent said it was acceptable to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists.

And yet, more than 60 percent said they've become less confident since the Snowden leaks that government surveillance programs are serving the public interest.

Respondents for the survey were recruited through the GfK Group, a market research company, out of a randomly selected group. The sampling error for the survey was plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

 

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