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Government Privacy

Even After NSA Leaks, Government Still Trusted Over Private Firms 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
cold fjord writes "Computing reports on a U.K. survey: 'Governments remain the organizations most trusted by the public to handle personal data, despite revelations about surveillance and data collection schemes by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the U.K.'s GCHQ and other governmental organizations around the world. That's according to research by accounting and consultancy firm Ernst & Young, which suggests that more than half of people — 55 per cent — say they're comfortable sharing personal information with central government organizations ... However, consumers are more wary about sharing their data with private companies. Just one-third told Ernst & Young that they're willing to share personal information with financial institutions, while one-quarter are happy to do so when it comes to their energy provider. Only one-fifth of those surveyed said they're comfortable sharing personal data with supermarkets. ... it was web firms that people were most claimed to be wary of sharing information with — fewer than one-in-10 said they were comfortable about sharing data with social networks, such as Facebook or web search engines like Google.'" Meanwhile, a pair of researchers have assessed the NSA's data gathering scheme and found, unsurprisingly, that it's probably not very cost effective (PDF). "Conceivably, as some maintain, there still exist some exceptionally dim-witted terrorists or would-be terrorists who are oblivious to the fact that their communications are rather less than fully secure. But such supreme knuckle-heads are surely likely to make so many mistakes — like advertising on Facebook or searching there or in chatrooms for co-conspirators — that sophisticated and costly communications data banks are scarcely needed to track them down."
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Even After NSA Leaks, Government Still Trusted Over Private Firms

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  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:31PM (#45861715)

    Yea, the government is supposed to work for the people. Sometimes it does that, sometimes it doesn't. Even the spying is supposed to be "for the greater good" as in preventing terrorism etc.

    OTOH, private companies work for their shareholders and try to earn as much profit as possible.

    NSA kept the spying secret and the information it collected was secret too. OTOH, if a private company was able to do the same spying as NSA did, it would turn right around and sell the information to the highest bidder. And probably would not act on any information about impending terrorist attacks, unless those attacks were aimed at the company.

    Also, the government was elected by the people.

    So, in the best case, the government is better than a private company (looking after the people). In the worst case, it is exactly like a private company (looking after its pockets).

  • by Valacosa (863657) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:34PM (#45861755)

    Ostensibly government exists to provide services. It's reasonable that one would have to provide information in the course of receiving these services. But, if a for-profit corporation is asking for personal information, it's almost assured to be part of a scheme to extract money from me.

    Or to put it another way, there's only a very small chance government thugs will use my address to knock down my door, but a very large chance a company will use my address to send me spam. So I don't see why the result of the study is surprising.

    Before you all flame me, I'm not American, and neither is this study.

  • by YumoolaJohn (3478173) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:35PM (#45861769)

    I don't want to give my information to either. And as someone already pointed out, any information in the hands of private companies will quickly be put into the hands of the government.

  • by Pentium100 (1240090) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:54PM (#45861925)

    Currently there are laws against a private company killing someone. If such laws didn't exist, you would see private companies killing people more often than the USSR government under Stalin did.

    Hell, there are illegitimate private companies that could be hired to dispatch someone...

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:47PM (#45862317)

    On the other hand, if you have representative government, you can fire it, with a little help from your friends.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 03, 2014 @10:08PM (#45862709) Journal

    Private companies are collecting the data for PROFIT. It just turns out that governments are clients (even forced disclosures are generally compensated...some very, very well). Government has a much more limited scope. 99.99999% of the time they're just looking for "bad guys," and the other 0.00001%* of the time some corrupt official is trying to profit off of it or you accidentally look like a "bad guy". The odds are still in your favor if the government is the one doing the collecting.

    *note: this is a guess, but it's based on a random supposition that - in the last year - the governments we are discussing (US, UK, EU) have targeted less than 700 completely innocent people in any given year using the NSAs (or UK or EU equiv.) surveillance dragnets. If you have a list longer than that, then the percentage may be higher. Note that, in a typical year, the odds of winning $1,000,000 or more in the Powerball lottery with a single ticket purchased in each drawing is 0.0002%, so even if I'm off in my estimate by an order of magnitude, you still have a much better chance of becoming a Powerball millionaire than being accidentally (or intentionally, but falsely) targetted by the government. I can guarantee that Google, Verizon, and Facebook will sell any data you give them, 100% chance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @11:56PM (#45863137)

    Most companies have several paid lawyers ready to go to bat for them. Most people have no chance of standing against that, unless they are very rich. How is this any different? Unless there is a class action lawsuit (which requires enough people to be pissed off enough and feel wronged to join), there is no recourse against a big corporation. Small shops, perhaps. Big corps are basically untouchable.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang