40 Percent of Americans Accept Government Surveillance

Americans have accepted that the government spies on us, but a fair amount of people consider the government's actions acceptable.

People have largely come to terms with the fact that if you go online, you're movements will be tracked by the government, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center. But 40 percent of those people went as far to say it's acceptable for the government to spy on its own citizens. Of course, more people were willing to consider the surveillance of suspected terrorists, international and U.S. leaders, and “other citizens” as acceptable.


It's a bit unsettling that even after Edward Snowden leaked that the NSA had been using online companies to spy on its own citizens, we're willing to roll over and give up. The bright side is that the majority of people find the government's actions unacceptable (57 percent), but the flip side is that they've done little to change their online habits.

Pew reports that only 34 percent have taken steps to limit transmission of personal information. For instance, only 17 percent of people have updated their privacy settings on social media (15 percent have decreased their usage) and 10 percent now use a search engine that doesn't track your history, like DuckDuckGo or StartPage.

Tor, the proxy network that's easy to install and use to mask your traffic, has been another popular piece of software among privacy experts. However, almost half of the people Pew surveyed had not adopted it as their browser and nearly as many have no idea what Tor is. So, perhaps it's not a lack of trying, just a lack of available information.

Most people, it seems, are just giving up, as Mike Murphy from Quartz reported on the recent research, writing:

“According to the report of Pew’s findings shared with Quartz, many respondents argued that citizens should just accept this reality — and not worry about the government surveilling them if they’re doing nothing wrong ...

“'Law-abiding citizens have nothing to hide and should not be concerned,' one respondent told Pew researchers.”

It's a logical fallacy that Snowden himself has tried to bat down in his appearances.

“When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

Read more at Quartz and the Pew Research Center.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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