New Harris poll finds NSA spying affecting online commerce

New Harris poll finds NSA spying affecting online commerce

Summary: 85 percent of adult Americans are somewhat aware of NSA spying and many have already changed their online behavior. And the Snowden revelations continue. Where will this end?

TOPICS: Storage, Security

A new Harris poll commissioned by security software maker ESET (not available online; reported on here) found that 47 percent of respondents have changed their online behavior and think more about the sites they visit, what they say, and what they do.

Twenty-six percent say that they are now doing less online banking and shopping. More worrying: the 18-34 age group is doing less online.

Twenty-four percent are less inclined to use email. Among 18-34 year olds in households making less than $50,000, a year the the percentage rises to 32.

Fear works

OK, all the big e-commerce sites may be quaking, but the NSA — not so much. Why?

While two-thirds believe technology companies have violated the trust of users by working with the Feds, 57 percent believes that mass surveillance helps prevent terrorism. Really?

I asked Stephen Cobb, Senior Security Researcher at ESET, author of the article about the survey and a long-time security geek, about the disparity between concern about security and support for surveillance.

The NSA revelations brought to the surface concerns that a lot of people had in the area of data privacy. People are now debating with themselves the balance between privacy and security.

People's feelings are becoming more nuanced. People want better oversight, new laws, because people see value in surveillance.

But is the concern temporary or long term?

An analogy would be Watergate in the national consciousness, that people would remember for decades, but it was not one moment in time — the process took years.

Based on an earlier survey, Mr. Cobb believes that the concern level is rising. If that's correct, then Google, Facebook, Amazon, among others, face difficulties:

There is a lot of spillover into the practices of private companies. People have been concerned for years — HIPAA, credit reporting agencies — but after 9/11 other concerns dominated.

Translation: The fears that drove HIPAA in the mid-90s haven't disappeared. The same fears that led to the 2003 dismissal of the Total Information Awareness program — which was secretly continued by his successors. And they are growing again.

The Storage Bits take

These survey results should be a wake-up call to the National Surveillance Community's tone-deaf leadership. The American people are willing to trust you if they believe you are getting proper oversight.

But the drip-drip-drip of Snowden revelations is eroding that support. After all:

Let's all agree that the NSA, CIA, and the rest of the $50-billion-a-year surveillance bureacracy are good barbecue-lovin' Americans. But really, what more can they do to undermine support short of shooting puppies and kittens on American Idol?

The security community is so convinced of their moral superiority that they're out of control. So clueless that their response to the Snowden revelations makes the Keystone Kops look like Nobel prize winners.

Liberty-loving Americans have to look to the major Internet companies to fight with the Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex now. But as the drip-drip-drip of Snowden revelations continues and more lies and abuses are exposed, the dumber and more self-serving the Three Letter Agencies look.

Obama and the entire executive branch's legitimacy rests on the consent of the governed. When Tea Party ideologues start making common cause with civil rights liberals — as they have — you've got a major problem.

Not as big as we as Americans have with an out-of-control surveillance state, but close.

Comments welcome, of course. What, if anything, could the government do to restore your trust? For me, making Snowden the Inspector General overseeing the intelligence community would be a good start.

Topics: Storage, Security

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  • Thoughts...

    "More worrying: the 18-34 age group is doing less online."
    I suspect that some of this is related, not to just NSA, but to Facebook, Microsoft, Google, etc... allowing too many advertisers, unknown people, etc... to be able to see content, bug them with unsolicited ads(email, in browsers, etc...). Unfortunately, the Internet World (as do many people in general) struggles with achieving a "balance". We are seeing the same thing in Politics, Religion, etc... Too many people are over-reaching when they have a little bit of success, and they tend to go overboard when they think "if a little is good, more MUST be better" !
    • Good point!

      ". . . Facebook, Microsoft, Google, etc... allowing too many advertisers, unknown people, etc... to be able to see content, bug them with unsolicited ads(email, in browsers, etc...)."

      It gets creepy seeing the same ads on site after site - especially after you've bought the product. The risk to Facebook is that once people sour on the info sharing that drives their business, it will take years if not decades to win them back.

      R Harris
  • Younger people using SMS more than email anyway

    So it will continue to decrease regardless of the NSA and Snowman.
    • What is the Difference?

      Where do you think SMS messages wind up? They can be accesses by police with a subpoena. And tweets? Remember the English couple having a private tweet session that was presented to them on paper by the TSA in the U.S.? It's all the same.
  • New Harris poll finds NSA spying affecting online commerce

    It's affecting online behavior in general. For example, I use a text app that encrypts all my messages before they are sent over the web; my friend receiving has the same app, and it decrypts the messages for him. Thank goodness for Android! At least that way the NSA can't simply load my texts or my friend's texts into a readable database; they'll have to work at it to break the encryption. They will still store all our texts, but that way no one can simply go into the database and browse through the texts. They'll have to justify using significant resources to decrypt them before they can read them.
  • The Bigger Issue

    The big issue here is that I'd like to see a poll of how many people have signed up for these services such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox, etc. WITHOUT reading the Terms of Service, FAQs or privacy policies. There was a big blog discussion about Google reading every piece of email. However, they state pretty clearly on their websites that the not only do that and have done that since the beginning, but also expect a non-revokeable license from the user to allow them to do whatever they want with what passes through their sites and services. So the question is: "Why are people so surprised?!" After all, if they are not charging you for their services, they have to be making billions of dollars from doing something else. It's not those little banner ads, is it? I've told people that I'm more O.K. with the NSA than I am with commercial enterprises. What does NSA do? Store the information? Point and laugh at the information? But what does Google do with the information? Make money? Read any of the TOS statements from these sites and you may actually be afraid.
  • alternatives

    What would happen if, for a few months, every internet user around the world wrote one daily email message to a friend and accidently included key words of interest to the NSA. My gosh, they might be so overwhelmed with work they wouldn't get a lunch break.

    Example: Hey Norm, Wholly By Bill, that new song of yours was explosive. My girlfriend said, "That's the bomb." You know, Norm, you couldn't have created a greater national security threat to succeed if you had made the DVD with bunker buster shell fragments and fetal tissue. If you're lucky, maybe it will go plutonium.

    I agree with the critics that you guys are right on up there with Stockpiles and Atomic Detonator, those european bands. Well, I muslim-it this note to a few paragraphs and get back; Iran around all day, then iraq-ed my brain until my boy ied a nuclear glass tube for his toy radio detector particle plate. You should see his mosque-ito collection; impressive.

    Keep up the good work and please tell our old professors, Mr Hamas and Miss Gaza, that I still remember their marine blockade ventures near the coast when they attempted to run the weapons-crabs back into hiding. Tell them please that the Eyemom catholitic converter needs over-hall.

    Israel what you said about Nora? That girl needs to be decapitated, How did she ever graduate? She was stoned as far as I could tell and never said "Hi Jab," when my brother Jacob walked by. Her eyes spun like a centrifuge. She was like the government, all conceited and over stuffed. When my brother's friend asked about capital records for you, his brother said, "Yeah, and where's a virgin-seeking jihadist when you need one?" Hey, that reminds me of the time I tora great big hole in my koran notes, I mean, korean notes? Darn it, Im such a bad speller.

    I wonder how the diver's weapons delivery got through; those guys rocket into action whenever the u.s.a (underaged savage authority) and p.l.o. (poultry literature organization) get involved; did you know that in the states, rubber Patriot Missile spear guns have to be licensed along with baby pacifiers and false teeth? You can get 20 years now for not paying your federal corruption taxes, or for eating a Fig Newton in public.

    Take care, dude, and don't let that ay-mam wanna -be get you down, "bama lama loosa all the day," is what my step mother Mary always sings. My new roommate, Jesus, from the Mexican province of El Cia, asked if you want the straight dope, or the other stuff.

    Tell me something, if and when you scribe back, islam better with carrots or potatoes? For myself, I prefer a cold fusion salad with white house staff dressing; I don't know why they call it that. Take care.

    Your friend the profiteer