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Pew Reports on American Digital Habits Post-Snowden

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March 31, 2015
CTOvision
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By Shannon Perry

A recent report from the Pew Research Center provides an interesting look into Americans’ online habits following Edward Snowden’s revelations about surveillance practices in the United States. The survey questioned adults about the extent to which their attitudes and online behaviors had changed following the revelations.

Of the population of U.S. adults who are aware of the surveillance programs, 25% has changed the way it uses email accounts, search engines, and other information/communication technologies. While 25% may not seem like a widespread change, the percentage reflects a very large number of people taking actions in response to the revelations – especially given the American individual’s history of inaction when it comes to cybersecurity.

The survey also found that the majority of Americans thinks that digitally monitoring other people (citizens of other countries or foreign officials) is acceptable, but monitoring Americans is not. Finally, it was observed that 52% of U.S. adults described themselves as “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the government monitoring their own digital behavior. These findings reflect an interesting trend among Americans, a willingness to monitor others but not themselves.

Overall, this survey demonstrates a very mixed view regarding the surveillance programs identified in the Edward Snowden revelations. Some Americans are concerned about surveillance; some are not. While a significant amount of the population has changed its digital habits, many have not. The variety of opinion is not all that surprising in the often-misunderstood arena of cybersecurity.