Support Marketplace

Do you care about government surveillance? You're in the minority

President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California, on June 6, 2013.

As news broke last week about NSA collection of phone records and online data, I started following a Twitter account called Nothing To Hide. The account has been retweeting people talking about how they don't care if the government, Obama, or the NSA, is spying on their online activity.

Here's an example: "Honestly? Well, yes, privacy is nice, but I have nothing to hide, so they can snoop all they like."

Whether or not you agree with this Tweet, it is representative. A lot of people in the U.S. don't seem very worried that the government might be culling through their data.

"When it's in the context of terrorism investigations, the public is willing to give the government a fair amount of leeway," says Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Dimock says people have been fine with giving up some privacy to stay safe for years.

"We haven't seen any shift in opposition to this over the past 10 years," he says. "Americans feel about the same way about this today as they did in 2002, within months of the 9/11 attacks."

Some argue what really scares people about surveillance programs like PRISM isn’t government control. Instead it’s more about being discovered by the neighbors.

"We are implicitly embarrassed about the stuff that we do because we are all weirdos online," says Kyle Wagner, who wrote a piece for Gizmodo on this topic. "The underlying fear is that someday it's going to be public knowledge what I've been doing on the Internet and I will be shamed for the rest of my life."

Wagner says the government doesn't really care what you're doing day to day, unless of course, you're breaking the law.

Tell us what you think: Do you care if the government knows who you're talking to on Facebook and when? Whom you're emailing? If so, why? If not, why not?

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...