Nearly Half Of Americans Claim They've Changed Their Behavior Due To NSA

from the and-it-may-have-an-impact dept

The folks at the NSA and their defenders used to use the argument that we were on the verge of a “cyber pearl harbor” in their constant attempts to change laws to give the NSA and others in law enforcement and intelligence more powers to spy on everyone (the argument being that they would do this in order to “protect” us). But… it’s beginning to look like the “cyber pearl harbor” wasn’t an attack from foreign hackers… but from the NSA itself. Eric Schmidt recently noted that the NSA’s actions were a hostile “attack” and it appears that many Americans agree. A new poll found that nearly half of American adults who responded have changed some form of online behavior because of the NSA stories, and they think a lot more carefully about where they go, what they say and what they do online.

We’ve pointed out (since the Snowden revelations began) that this was going to have a negative impact on the tech industry, but much of the concerns was from overseas users. However, it’s clear that it’s impacting how Americans view their online habits as well:

When it comes to specific Internet activities, such as email or online banking, this change in behavior translates into a worrying trend for the online economy: over one quarter of respondents (26%) said that, based on what they have learned about secret government surveillance, they are now doing less banking online and less online shopping. This shift in behavior is not good news for companies that rely on sustained or increased use of the Internet for their business model.

Importantly, the study also found that, contrary to the claims of many, the Snowden revelations aren’t just being followed by security-obsessed techies. While the general public may not be keeping tabs on all the details, they are getting the basics.

And in case anyone is tempted to think that this is a narrow issue of concern only to news junkies and security geeks, let me be clear: according to this latest survey, 85% of adult Americans are now at least somewhat familiar with the news about secret government surveillance of private citizens’ phone calls, emails, online activity, and so on.

Once again, it appears that the federal government, and the NSA in particular, have created a huge cost for innovation and economic growth, while having almost no real benefit to show for it.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Nearly Half Of Americans Claim They've Changed Their Behavior Due To NSA”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The NSA is Domestic Terrorists.

But the US media hates the term ‘domestic terrorist’ because those people rarely look ‘foreign’ or ‘other’.

Terrorism is using fear to try to accomplish your goals through some kind of a violent or otherwise frightening act. So that means that things like people who go on a shooting spree for an ideological reason are terrorists.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.

Spectral, never complain that our nation is divided. You and your ilk have created and enforced that division. You and your ilk are responsible for the surveillance state and for the political paralysis that keeps it in place. Shame on you!

That One Guy (profile) says:

A matter of incentives

Unfortunately, it comes down to incentives.

The NSA and other spy agencies have zero incentives to not do things like spy on everyone, grab all the data they can, and break security measures to make their job easier(well, technically they do have an incentive to avoid that last one, but it would require them to admit that other people/organizations can be just as smart and capable as them).

After all, if people use US products, services or companies less, does it affect their budget any? Not in the slightest. Even with the outpouring of anger against them, no politicians wants to give a potential enemy ammo as being ‘soft on terrorism’ by voting to reduce or eliminate the budget allocated to the spy agencies, generally the most they’ll do is try and put some (easily ignored) ‘limits’ on just what the agency can do, and we’ve all seen how effective those are.

On the other hand, due to cowards that are willing to sacrifice any freedom as long as they can ‘feel safe’, and likewise cowardly politicians that are willing to sacrifice the freedoms of others, and abhor the idea of getting any blame on themselves for not ‘doing something’, if the spy agencies fail in any way, they will get the full brunt of the blame for it(which they will then inevitably blame on them not having enough power of course), so they have plenty of incentives for the very things they’ve been doing.

If the system is going to be fixed, the incentives need to change, and the people need to grow a collective spine.

On the spy side, the spy agencies need to be punished, up to and including charging, trying, and jailing those responsible for abusing their powers and violating the rights of the people, no matter how high up they may be. If there are some real punishments for violating the rights of the people, then and only then will they care enough to respect them.

On the people’s side, society needs to realize that the correct response to terrorism is not sacrificing their rights for phantom ‘security’, it is to take reasonable security measures, accept that they won’t stop everything, and then, should the worst happen, to move on with life, refusing to be panicked or terrorized by the actions of a bunch of cowards trying to attack their way of life.

Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, bad things happen, and while the weak focus on the bad, let it drive them down and dictate their life, the strong accept it, take reasonable steps to keep it from happening again, while accepting those steps might not be enough, and then push past anyway.

The Master Planner says:

Re: A matter of incentives

After all, if people use US products, services or companies less, does it affect their budget any?

In the short term, no. But as America declines economically, there will be less tax revenue to spread around and something will have to be cut. As America declines economically, it will become less powerful as well.

I’ve just figured it out! Their plan is to weaken America and make it a less tempting target. That’s how they’re protecting America and it is genius! Thank you, NSA!

Anonymous Coward says:

I definitely use email as little as possible these days. I’m afraid to even log into Gmail, Yahoo or MS Live/Hotmail, because I’m afraid my system will be infected by a PRISM web browser exploit.

Most likely using a javascript or iframes. I’ve even read exploits can use metadata embedded in .jpg images.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Use those accounts with a real email client, it’s possible. Then learn how to make gpg signature and show people who want to bother learning a thing requiring 10 clicks and 5 mins of their time.

Don’t try with people who do not want to bother, their loss, they’re intellectually lazy since the event of broadband internet. I’m the first to admit the cable modem I got in 1999 (yeah, a cable company in canada was really innovative early on) has made me a little lazier intellectually.

I pity the children born year 1995 and on these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

it is to take reasonable security measures, accept that they won’t stop everything,

Extreme security measures will not stop everything either, it will just breed more effective terrorists. If anything the more extreme the security measures, the more people will be hurt as collateral damage, and the more likely it is that some people will turn to terrorism.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is a reasonable expectation that NSA COULD do things like spy on whoever they want.

It was bad enough they were snooping on everyone… but also making it easier for anyone to snoop on people thanks to weakening encryption protocols? Good lord, it’s like they are working for the enemy. It would be a fictional tale so farcical that no one would have believed seriously years ago. I’d dare say someone would say it was bad comedy, something that wasn’t funny or even possible. Why would a security agency reduce security and increase risk for everyone.

JackOfShadows (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve done some reading on terrorism, which makes sense if you are a #1 target, and one of the goals is to force alterations on the society that the citizenry will find unacceptable thus weakening until society destroys itself from within. That’s the core of asymmetrical warfare where the terrorist doesn’t have the resources for a straight-on slug-fest. Golly-gee-whiz, looks like bin Laden was on target, don’t it?

Anonymous User #1,337,911 says:


Well said. The US government isn’t the only one getting out of control either. A recent article (link below) made me realize that it’s time to stop procrastinating and learn how Bitcoin and VPN’s work.

I’m tired of so called “democratic” governments acting in ways which are anything but. It’s all so very shameful, especially when you think about how much blood has been spilled to both create and protect the way of life we’re now losing thanks to the corrupt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

What I think is more interesting is that the opinions of Snowden cross political party lines; i.e., about the same percentage of people identifying with Democrats, Republicans, and independents, have the same opinion. Basically, 61% of all Americans think Snowden is a crook.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

Ummm…You pretty much have to put stock in what the public thinks, because when the majority is this high, it will influence government actions. If the percentage was the other way, then the government would be more likely to either not prosecute Snowden, or the president could issue a pardon. On the other hand, about 75% of all Americans disapprove of Obamacare, and we still have that…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

The majority, of those surveyed, is not that high, nor will it influence government actions, as has been shown many times. The government has also consistently said that it will prosecute Mr. Snowden regardless of what anyone in the public thinks. The president could issue a pardon, but he won’t.

Again, not all Americans were surveyed about Obamacare, either, so that statement is also false.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Regardless of what Americans are doing...

Statistical sampling, as long as it follows pre-established guidelines, has been proven over and over again (much like the theory of evolution) to be an accurate representation of the population at large. In the case of these statistics, there does not appear to be any monkey business with the numbers, so unless you have facts to prove otherwise, I suspect the numbers are accurate.

As for the Obamacare numbers, I caution you because the same organization also found initial support for Obamacare. So which is it? Were they accurate when the numbers were in favor of Obamacare, but not now? So are you cherry picking the statistics that you like?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Regardless of what Americans are doing...

61% and 75% is not that high? Given our current fragmented society, those percentages would fall into mandate level, based on Obama’s comments.

It does not matter whether ALL Americans were surveyed, multiple organizations have conducted independent surveys, and all the surveys cumulatively are showing the same two things: the number of people supporting Obamacare is the lowest it has ever been, and the number has continued to drop steadily.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

This is just one poll, earlier poll last year were much more severe and (right on the spot)….people get lazy and forget and eat another Big Mac and eat another Prozac and the numbing of emotions is complete.

Funny how the anxiety medication I take is not in the class of emotion blunting SSRI’s/SNRI’s/various other antidepressants made to numb the feelings away. Benzodiazepines calm you down but do not make you not care about problems that need solving.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

Forgot to finish my sentence here. Yet benzodiazepines are viewed as half-narcotics, most psychiatrists hate them…could it be because most of them are old and people mostly buy the generics, making their inappropriate shares into Big Pharms (generic pharm companies are actually ethical, they don’t invent new medication of a same class as another one that just had its patent end and had the door open to its generic status). The most recent ones are obviously the most known in pop culture, like Xanax. But of course they script it the wrong way, it is a very short lasting benzodiazepine made for Panic Disorder/PTSD other things that cause sudden outbursts of feelings of impending doom/cardiac distress which can actually kill you (yes, you can scare yourself to death, unwillingly of course). So they script Xanax away for general anxiety disorders where long lasting benzodiazepines are much more fitting for the problem, they aren’t hard hitting and last a long time in the body, making withdrawal from them a piece of cake compared to those hypnotic-fast acting benzos like Xanax and Halcion. Although I think they decided not to give Halcion to most people these days, because, duh, it’s now generic. I see a tendency in a reduction in Xanax prescriptions too since it is generic. Yeah you can guess what my job is. I’m not the typical reader of techdirt, but computers and networking are major hobbies of mine and I could as well have worked in that field if I wasn’t so lazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Regardless of what Americans are doing...

Oh, so when the CBS poll previously found that Americans were more sympathetic to Snowden, and in favor of Obamacare, I guess they were wrong about that too?

Why not just point to the errors in the survey, rather than overlay your conspiracy theory on it? CBS has historically been one of the most unbiased of networks.

Anonymous Coward says:

I ran into some of this crap with PalPay. Suddenly after a decade of use, they now need personal verified information as well as phone number.

M$ pulled that with a hotmail account. Neither of them had a problem with usage for a long, long, time. Now suddenly both need this info? It didn’t happen with M$ and it sure as hell isn’t going to happen with PayPal. Since they are denying my adding funds until I supply it, I will drain the account to as near zero as I can and that is the end of using PayPal.

This business with the NSA is the prime reason for that. It has directly affected the way I deal with stuff on the internet. I have refused to give that info out. Not because someone doesn’t already have it. Because every bit of info that I can control to prevent it’s widespread dissemination I will do. I can not pull back the info from the years prior to my knowledge of all this government and corporate spying and data mining. But I can make sure as much as possible I don’t let it continue.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m just a friendly neighbour from the North, and I just don’t use the Internet at home without paying an additional substantial fee for a personal VPS. Not only it is situated in a uncensored, dmca free internet country, but I do all my torrenting through it remotely, and bring things home using sftp if I really need em at home. If media i’ll just remote enjoy it through vlc.

And a small additional fee (but one that shouldn’t be there) for usenet access, one of the only true remaining outpost of freedom online. Does not bother me that most text groups are dead (thanks google) long as the binaries are there. My ISP had a usenet server and they shut it down in late 2008 for dubious reasons (Newsgroups are now irrelevant and people discuss things elsewhere now). Of course they didn’t take it down for that reason, they must have hated all that impossible to shape traffic (download through usenet is massively fast). At least they offer a great upload speed and i’m only using their first alternative over their regular speed plan, I have 20/10mbps, so goodbye file lockers, Usenet is an eternal impossible to delete file locker, it is so damn useful to upload things there, i’ve done it so I could get more space to enable a linux update in the past, heh.

Sorry for the ranting, it’s almost 5 am and I had a…eventful night. All this just to say that a 65 dollars 20/10 connection (which would be 55 normally, but I need to pay 10 dollars more for unlimited data), someone these days who want to be truly secure has to have a proxy or vpn connection, preferably through their own server they pay for with pre-paid credit cards. I also never use tor unless already vpn’d to my vps. All of this + usenet makes it amount to 100+ dollars a month.

In a normal world, if I wanted to spend 100 dollars for internet a month without being coerced into doing it, I would be having a 100/40 connection from this ISP…

Oh also, running IPBlock(a peerblock-like program for linux that uses iptables with a gui) using some specific “1337” blocklists and not those ridiculous blocklists from bluetack (except their whole country lists, I prefer not to have anyone from a pretty large list of countries not to connect to me) that block over 40% of the internet. It’s called ipfilterX, you gotta pay for it these days, it used to be free, but its a once a year thing. But yet, still more spending.

All this to protect myself and I’m just a regular joe who has many passions, especially music, and if I was to pay for it all I just couldn’t eat or pay my rent. The current copyright hysteria instigated by the Megaupload raid and the mass closure of file lockers and public torrent sites is just making people pay for things that will protect them adequately on the internet, and not buy their shit, even if we want it, out of spite. The less money they have for their lawyers and governmental programs (through lobbying, the better).

I shall sleep now, heh. (I was just giving hints for anybody who randomly reads this article’s comments who wants to know how to protect oneself).

There’s even deeper ways to be anonymous, especially changing style of narrative when writing on forums/chatting and accumulating loads of non 5 eyes hosted email services, like a russian one, that one accesses through a real email client, only need google translate to help one get through the registering process etc. but that’s real deep and bordering on paranoid (but its warranted these days).

I only talk to my facebook friends (who are all real friends for the most part) through pidgin with the pidgin-otr plugin, so I can IM my friends who all abandoned MSN (or if they didn’t and used aMSN like some of us did for a while) without dealing with the useless annoying facebook bullshit. I never post status updates there, I just mass message people through pidgin, which can be used to chat with facebook contacts, with end to end encryption. (it appears in actual facebook as “encoded chat”.

Alright I said enough now. Just wanted to illustrate what a non american should be doing, especially that we are even more targets than you are. Even if i’m just a canuck. And no my job isn’t IT or computer science or anything like that, I just grew up with computers all my life, my dad was always big into them early on. I work in another field of science and how crooked that field is at the corporate suit level makes me want to be totally peace of mind when at home, at all costs.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...