“Do Unto Others, but Don’t Surveil Me” Probably Wasn’t Lesson Snowden Had in Mind


Following the 2013 disclosures by Edward Snowden—a former employee of a National Security Agency contractor—about the scope of about U.S. surveillance programs, there has been an intense debate around the world over balancing privacy and security. This polarizing topic recently dominated the headlines during the clash between Apple Inc. and the FBI over unlocking an encrypted iPhone that was used by one of the shooters in a December 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. High profile data breaches have affected millions of U.S. citizens and the topic of cybersecurity even took stage during the recent presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So, what exactly are the views of U.S. citizens on privacy and security issues in the era after Snowden?

According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of U.S. citizens surveyed were concerned about U.S. surveillance of their data and electronic communications. However, when it came to foreign entities, the public was generally accepting of U.S. government’s surveillance of others—including foreign citizens and foreign leaders—it said. Additionally, 82 percent of respondents said it was acceptable to monitor communications of terrorism suspects.

Pew also found that 86 percent of internet users have taken some steps to remove or mask their digital footprints. Almost 75 percent of respondents said that it is very important them to be “in control of who can get information about them,” Pew said. 

Perhaps, this concern over controlling digital identity is well founded. According to Pew’s research, few people will have the means to protect themselves from “dataveillance” meaning that digital privacy may become a luxury good.

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