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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 msobkow (48369) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:12PM (#45861569) Homepage Journal

    Interestingly enough, the number of people willing to share information with a provider seems to correlate directly with the likelihood that the provider will spam you with "targetted advertising" and "special promotions."

    • by bondsbw (888959) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:28PM (#45861693)

      I don't understand why that is such a big deal anyway. They are going to spam me with ads one way or the other; at least if I find value in the product or service being advertised, it's less of a waste of my time and perhaps it's even a valuable proposition.

      But sure... let's give as much data to big brother as possible. I mean, there is absolutely nothing that a government could ever interpret--or misinterpret--from your data that could do you harm, right?

      • 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.

        • Which is what was great about the BBS era. We ran our own damn "social networks" on our own damn machines. Who's got all that data now, eh?

          That's the difference between you humans and us, you get just enough of anything to be acceptable and give Darwin the finger, but we keep evolving no matter what. [slashdot.org]

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Especially a government that now has access to your healthcare... I mean, heaven forbid I go browse to a tobacco website and be red flagged for health reasons.

        • Especially a government that now has access to your healthcare... I mean, heaven forbid I go browse to a tobacco website and be red flagged for health reasons.

          Do you realize that the government is a huge organization with multiple departments? And that, in the US, they are specifically designed NOT to talk to each-other without a lot of Congressional or Judicial oversight? For example, in theory the KKK could easily have used it's control of local Sheriffs to kill 100% of black people with the list of black people provided by the Census Bureau, but they never actually did that shit because local sheriffs do not have access to the Census.

          Do you realize that under

      • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:17PM (#45862081)

        I don't understand why that is such a big deal anyway. They are going to spam me with ads one way or the other; at least if I find value in the product or service being advertised, it's less of a waste of my time and perhaps it's even a valuable proposition.

        That's because targeted ads are failures. You research and then buy a pair of shoes online and they spam you with shoe ads for the next month when you are no longer interested.

        What we need to be worried about are not ads that try (and miserably fail) at showing you stuff you might want to buy. We need to be worried about them using all of that personal information to manipulate you into wasting money.

        One recent example is how Orbitz puts higher priced hotels at the top of the list for people using macintoshes. [forbes.com] The real risk to each and every one of us is their ability to figure out your mental weaknesses and use them against you so that you spend more money than you should. It is the Big Data version of bikini models in beer commercials. Lots of people like to think they are immune to advertising - but nobody is 100% immune to millions of dollars worth of research on manipulation of the human mind.

        • That's because targeted ads are failures. You research and then buy a pair of shoes online and they spam you with shoe ads for the next month when you are no longer interested.

          Even worse, Dell bombarded me with ads and 'coupons' for another laptop within a month of my buying one. The 'standard' user of a laptop replaces it roughly every 3 years. While there are certainly shoes that last longer, most of my purchases are for athletic types that last me roughly three months*.

          *As running/exercise shoes. After that they're demoted to daily wear, then lawnmowing duty. Though lately they haven't been even getting that as I've taken to wearing my older/retired work boots. Safer.

        • by afgam28 (48611)

          One recent example is how Orbitz puts higher priced hotels at the top of the list for people using macintoshes. The real risk to each and every one of us is their ability to figure out your mental weaknesses and use them against you so that you spend more money than you should. It is the Big Data version of bikini models in beer commercials. Lots of people like to think they are immune to advertising - but nobody is 100% immune to millions of dollars worth of research on manipulation of the human mind.

          That still sounds like it's not a big deal compared to what the government could do to you.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            The government is run by the corporations. See revolving door, and campaign contributions for a start.
            When hemp threatened the business model of someone, millions of lives were ruined. Laws like the DMCA were not thought up out of the blue by the government
            Personally I see it as a size thing as much as anything. The bigger the corporation or government, the more the potential threat.

            • by khallow (566160)

              When hemp threatened the business model of someone, millions of lives were ruined. Laws like the DMCA were not thought up out of the blue by the government

              Pay to play doesn't mean that corporations run things. I think that's just how the governments of the world routinely monetize their power.

              And as the NSA spying demonstrates, the US government does a lot of stuff without caring about the economic harm caused (much less obtain approval) to its supposed masters.

              • by dryeo (100693)

                When hemp threatened the business model of someone, millions of lives were ruined. Laws like the DMCA were not thought up out of the blue by the government

                Pay to play doesn't mean that corporations run things. I think that's just how the governments of the world routinely monetize their power.

                It's in the interest of the corporations to keep the status quo. You do have a point that some of the government are there to play power games.

                And as the NSA spying demonstrates, the US government does a lot of stuff without caring about the economic harm caused (much less obtain approval) to its supposed masters.

                The NSA seems to have as their main directive to support American corporations as most of the spying seems to be for economical reasons, as in industrial espionage. Of course their other directive is self-preservation which means a strong supporting government.

        • by argStyopa (232550)

          "...to spend more money than you should..."
          This is a convenient way to rationalize poor choices, that's all.

          How much "should" I be spending on anything?

          If I buy something for $5 and am happy with it, but could have gotten it for $4, am I cheated somehow? To suggest so denies the context that until very recently, my only way to find out competitive prices was to physically go to the store and look. Merchants could be as daring as they wanted to be to charge as much as they could get away with...THAT'S THEI

      • by peragrin (659227)

        As the other poster stated. targeted ads are always failures.

        Once a year I hit up all the major car companies to look at the new models. I go to every one to see the cars I can't afford in my dreams down to potential cars. For the next 2 months I see nothing but ads for cars that I really don't want to buy.

        I shop for christmas gifts, all I see is ads for stuff I either bought, or ignored as it wasn't what I wanted.

        I have not once seen a target ad that was actually useful.

      • I don't understand why that is such a big deal anyway. They are going to spam me with ads one way or the other; at least if I find value in the product or service being advertised, it's less of a waste of my time and perhaps it's even a valuable proposition.

        You're a slave. You're so used to being taken for a ride, you don't even know what the alternatives are like anymore.

        Spamming is illegal. You can actually complain, and you can actually escalate to your provider's help desk, and you can actua

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:32PM (#45861733)

      Even more interestingly, this survey was conducted in The United Kingdom. If the same survey was done in America, it would likely have a very different result.

      • by s.petry (762400) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:25PM (#45862139)
        The Study was done by sampling "whom" exactly? From TFA I see 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 organisations, such as HM Revenue & Customs and the NHS. but I see no data on who was polled, what the sample rate was, etc...

        99.28% of all statistics are manipulated to present a wanted message, 68.7% of those are made up on the spot, and 0.035% of them are actually correct.
    • The governments already know anything important about you.
      Non-phone utilities provide necessary basic services, and have an undeserved reputation of trailing tech by decades. They are heavily regulated.
      What do you get in exchange for giving all your life details for FB and Google to package and resell? Convenience
      Guess which ones I'd rather hand confidential details to.

    • Even the newsclowns admit it.
      http://www.cbsnews.com/news/poll-most-americans-dont-trust-government/ [cbsnews.com]
      Pew figured out 80% have no faith.
      Im guessing there is a higher number out there, uninfected with cranial rectumitis. Maybe so , maybe not. Either way, Im not surprised.

    • I share my most important personal information (my financial information) with my banks. And I wish I didn't have to.

      I get more junk mail from them then everything else combined. Wish there was a way to tell them all I'm not interested in any more credit cards, or refinancing my home, or car loans, or balance transfers, etc.

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:27PM (#45861683)

    The private companies are collecting the data for the government.

    • 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.

      • In the US, it seems that the corporations are collecting the data at the demand of Government. They are doing the bidding of the Government out of self-preservation, not a motive profit. See PRISM [wikipedia.org] for clarification. The NSA demands, and with the force of the US Government behind it, there's not much Google, Apple or other corporations can do to say "no".
      • *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,

        Are you out of your mind? In the last year these governments have targeted us all. Oh wait, you like to make a distinction between stalking everybody in general, and "targeting" specific individuals

  • Well trained (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:29PM (#45861701)

    Decades of filling minds with hate for everything not Government working as intended. Half the nation cashes Government benny checks at least monthly and the other half have a whole spectrum of bennies factored into their future.

    The Powers That Be are patiently waiting for their subjects to get used to the on-going reality of NSA scrutiny. They know that as long as they keep those EBT cards refilled their dependents aren't going to stay angry.

    So don't expect much from the "people." They're bought and paid for.

  • It's about money.

    These guys are making money with all that "Surveillance" paranoia.

    Simple like that.

  • 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 trims (10010) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:26PM (#45862147) Homepage

      For as bad as the NSA and GCHQ programs are/were, there is at least some reasonable way to restrict them from damage.

      For corporations, there's effectively no limit to the amount of damage they can do.

      Yes, government-level info gathering can result in some pretty awful things - prison, in the least, for a limited number of people. A breakdown in trust of government as a whole, however, is probably the worst thing such pervasive intrusion can cause. BUT, we have relatively fast control over this kind of behavior. We (citizens) simply pitch a fit to our representatives, and a loud enough fit (aided hopefully by expose from people like Edward Snowden) gets results rather quickly (weeks or months). The NSA policies and practices are changing, as we speak. In the end, government is responsible to the people, and if enough of society says to change the policy, it gets changed.

      Compare that to information gathering and use by a company. It's regulated by? Well, if you're lucky, the government. If not, then by nobody. And there's no oversight at all. They pretty much can do whatever they want with it, and there's virtually nothing the average citizen can do about it, even in large numbers. The company's management controls the data, and they're pretty much completely insulated from outside influence. Not even stockholders have much say here. And there's virtually no penalty for them misusing it. Take the Target debit card leak. It's a very temporary, minor PR problem. They're not on the hook for any damage they cause those people by mishandling their info. And that's a minor case - think of all the places where corporations buy and sell info for no benefit of the individual, profit from it, and usually to the detriment of the individual.

      I'm in no way saying that government info gathering is good - we need to keep a close eye on it at all times. However, corporate information gathering and trading is infinitely more damaging to society, especially in unregulated places such as the USA. At least we have a reasonably ability to correct government oversteps - when was the last time you saw a company penalized (or heck, even substantially change its policies) due to mishandling of individual data?

      Thanks, but I'll trust a representative government long before I'll trust a private, for-profit entity.

      -Erik

    • Ostensibly government exists to provide services.

      I'm not sure I see it that way. Alternately, the government exists to perform our collective will. If we want to get together and make roads, then the government is a convenient way for us to do it. If we want to get together and give poor people health insurance, government is a way for us to do it.

      But it's not there to provide free services, they aren't free, we're paying for them.

    • by Flammon (4726)

      Companies make profits by pleasing you. If they don't, you can and should stop paying for their products and services. It's not profitable to SPAM when no one is buying. You can't just stop pay the government though, no matter how shitty their services are. They'll knock your door down and put you in jail at gun point.

  • Thats some interesting take on everyday legal gov use vs a vast domestic surveillance network.
    People are happy too or have to interact with "central government organisations, such as HM Revenue & Customs and the NHS"
    Kind of hard not to pay your tax, collect a pension, apply for benefits (e.g. help with heating bills), enjoy the benefits of the National Health Service.
    Energy provider - again kind of hard not to pay your bill, seek a better rate.
    Supermarkets - people do enjoy their rewards, discounts.
  • by csumpi (2258986) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:44PM (#45861827)
    Because the government is not a whore. Yes, they collect data, too. But they don't turn around, spread their legs, and sell it to whoever pays $20 for it.
    • I don't have to share my information with corporations, but when the IRS comes asking to see my last 7 years of tax receipts, or the ATF comes to "inspect" the storage of my firearms, I either provide the information they ask or take a ride to jail. The ultimate power over individuals resides in Government; it is because of that power that corporations pay billions to those who run Government - to try to get a little control, however briefly, over that power. But rest assured, it is Government who can dem
  • It is there to protect them from us slaves. In effect, it is a private security company. Why would anybody trust that?

  • Reasonable people don't believe that Angela Merkel is a terrorist. Instead talking about terrorism, it's more important to talk about how the NSA spying benifits us during trade negotiations.

    Technically, I suppose it doesn't benifit all of "us"... Oh well. Sucks to be you I guess.

  • This is hardly surprising. Government is supposed (please note the "supposed") to act for the general interest, which should (please note the "should") be aligned with citizen interest. Private companies work for their owner's interests, which are much less likely to align with the user's interests.

    The issues here are "supposed" and "should". Obviously people do not consider yet their government as oppressive. The question is what can we do if a government turns oppressive, once we let it have those great

  • When the government can force a company to release data or just steal it clandestinely, cut out the middle man and just hand it over to them.

  • Makes sense ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MacTO (1161105) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @02:12AM (#45863729)

    While governments have more power, they also have many more constraints on how they use those powers. Which is ironic, since the government writes the rules for themselves while corporations do not.

    (Note: I'm talking about governments in nations that respect civil liberties, which includes the UK and the US in spite of recent revelations. While the type of spying going on is certainly disturbing, it is nothing compared to governments that routinely intimidate, imprison, or even execute their opposition.

  • Governments around the world have killed millions of their own people, not to mention those of other countries. US government puts more people in cages than any country, ever. Most are in for doing something with no victim, except perhaps themselves. They are not guilty of force or fraud or any direct harm to anyone. The US government runs GITMO, and tries to say torture is ok. There are Executive Orders from the president that enable detaining anyone, in principle, without due process of any kind and

  • by kerrbear (163235) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @04:11AM (#45863955)

    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

    The Boston Marathon duo were supreme knuckle-heads and the NSA still did not discover them. So even the knuckleheads aren't found with their surveillance.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:39AM (#45864105)

    This one lacks specificity.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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