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Majority of Americans Say NSA Phone Tracking Is OK To Fight Terrorism 584

An anonymous reader writes "While the tech media has gone wild the past few days with the reports of the NSA tracking Verizon cell usage and creating the PRISM system to peer into our online lives, a new study by Pew Research suggests that most U.S. citizens think it's okay. 62 percent of Americans say losing some personal privacy is acceptable as long as its used to fight terrorism, and 56 percent are okay with the NSA tracking phone calls. Online tracking is fair less popular however, with only 45 percent approving of the practice. The data also shows that the youth are far more opposed to curtailing privacy to fight terror, which could mean trouble for politicians planning to continue these programs in the coming years."
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Majority of Americans Say NSA Phone Tracking Is OK To Fight Terrorism

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @08:15AM (#43971499)

    To be honest, I'm at least a tiny bit surprised that it's the younger people who were more opposed. I had somehow figured the younger generations to be a bit more indifferent.

  • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @08:19AM (#43971541)

    I don't think they "thinking" at all, just morons and sheep...

    I'm surprised that the younger generation is so against it, given the lax attitude schools have in teaching rational thought and logic and instead focusing on "zero tolerance", and mindless memorization...

    Maybe there is some hope for the future after all...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @08:19AM (#43971543)

    Know nothing of history.

  • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @08:38AM (#43971731) Homepage Journal

    The German government has stated that collecting connection information beyond 1 week is unreasonable and unjustified to fight crime and terrorism. If you have reasonable suspicion, convince a judge and get a warrant, then you can wiretap as you wish, and you have the recent history. If not, don't store the data.

    The German government has a guideline for all IT projects promoting the principle of collecting the least data ("Datensparsamkeit" ~= "data frugality").

    Data tends to be illegally used for other things then intended. And it is not effective. It costs the government and companies real money. And it costs people their privacy without seeing something in return besides promises.

  • by eggstasy ( 458692 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @08:42AM (#43971781) Journal

    Privacy is not a universal value. Different cultures have different notions of privacy. In some places, people use the toilet with the door open. In some other places, anonymous feedback is frowned upon, and people want to take responsibility for their criticism.
    Slashdot must be completely detached from reality: the average person wants to be famous, voluntarily puts their entire life on Facebook etc.
    People's lives are all the same and extremely boring. If you can't understand this, it's because you've never spied on people :D
    Whenever I stumble upon people complaining about targeted advertising etc... I'm like... have these people never lived in a traditional place, bought their stuff at a traditional grocer, who knows everything about you and your parents and grandparents etc.?
    Have you never lived in a small town where everybody knows each other? You do realize that is the norm, right?
    Most cities are small, and truly large cities are an artifact of mechanized agriculture, having become widespread only in the past 50 years or so.
    When you ask yourself, "Who watches the watchers?", do you not realize that you, yourself, are also a watcher? And that it is only by watching each other that social norms are enforced, so we don't descend into barbarity and chaos? Ever noticed how the anonymity of a rioting mob compounds upon itself and leads to more and more vandalism and looting? I could go on. Freedom is an illusion. You can only be truly free of obligations if you can isolate yourself from society and be totally self-sufficient. Which is not how normal people work.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:15AM (#43972169)
    Another question that should have been asked in this poll: Are you aware that 9/11 could have been prevented if FBI headquarters had simply paid attention to reports from their field offices, and no dragnet monitoring would have been needed?
  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:19AM (#43972235)

    Well, did it?

    If you'll recall, several much lower-tech warning signs were already there, even without having to snoop personally into the lives of everyone on the planet.

    And they dropped the ball anyway.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:28AM (#43972359) Homepage

    I thought I'd never type the above words, but on this morning's Today Show, Bill O'Reilly was on and talking about Snowden and the NSA spying. He said that if Snowden is right and the NSA is spying on everyone then Snowden is a hero and the NSA is wrong. If Snowden is lying, then, then what he did was very wrong. O'Reilly went on to say that it is not acceptable to spy on everyone just to catch a few terrorists (if this is even effective... there's no transparency at all so we don't know) and there should be measures in place to ensure that they only collect data on people they need to spy on (e.g. suspects).

    Do you see what you've done, Obama and NSA? You've got me agreeing with Bill O'Reilly! Surely, this is one of the signs of the apocalypse!

    (In all seriousness, I'm sure O'Reilly supported programs like this under Bush and is only opposed to them now because Obama's doing it. I'm also sure that, had I listened to the interview a bit more I'd have disagreed with him on something - or he toned down his rhetoric for the Today Show audience. Still agreeing with him for as long as I did was scary.)

  • Re:Bull Shit! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:29AM (#43972369)
    In the abstract of 'keep you safe' most people will be in favor of that. Ask the nuanced question of 'in light of the IRS targeted profiling, are you in favor of the government tracking phone calls?' and you might get a different answer. I mean, if we have a Tea Party group clearly causing trouble, we really should see if anyone 'subversive' has been calling them or being called by them.

    Or in three words:

    Kevin. Bacon. Game.

    We can tie you to a terrorist in just 7 links. Good enough for a nice stern interrogation?
  • Re:Bull Shit! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarkTempes ( 822722 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:31AM (#43972393)
    Actually, any statistician I talk to always intends "median" when they say average.

    When they want mean they say mean. This was a big surprise to me because in grade school it was the opposite.
  • Re:Bull Shit! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stormy Dragon ( 800799 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @09:57AM (#43972739) Homepage

    Carlin was right: intelligence is a left-bounded Gaussian distribution (there is a hard minimum, but no hard maximum). The mean of such a distribution is always higher than the median, so more than half of the population will have below average intelligence.

  • Re:Bull Shit! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cfulton ( 543949 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @10:35AM (#43973281)
    You don't even need to go there to see how the data can be abused. Try these on for size:

    -- If you track the phone calls of the CEO of BigOlCorp and he is talking to the CEO of NewButGrowingInc a lot then purchasing NewButGrowing stock will probably be a good deal when the buyout happens.
    -- If you are, say, Walmart and you don't want to be unionized. Just have the NSA tell you which employees are calling the AFL/CIO and quietly let them go.
    -- If rival companies were working to get a contract that was at bid, knowing who called whom and when would give a competitive advantage.
    -- Hate gays. You could out every phone number that called a gay chat line.
    -- Hate porn. You could publish a list of porn watchers. (OK that would be everybody but...)

    Everyone who says that if you have done nothing illegal have nothing to fear has not thought the issue through. And as has been said here before we ALL have something to hide.

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @12:25PM (#43974855) Journal

    Incorrect, sir. Those who are "fine with it" are called the Baby Boomers. The Worst Generation. The Bootlicker Generation. They who looted the empire, shipped the jobs overseas, voted themselevs every entitlement and paid for none of it. They who will take everything but responsibility.

    Clinton, who can't define "is."

    Bush, whose idea of sacrifice during a war of choice is "go shopping."

    Obama and McCain, who "welcome a debate" about which rights we'd like to trade away.

    They who will label a young man of conscience who has traded his life, his fortune and his sacred honor in the name of liberty for his countrymen a "traitor."

    They who will enslave their children and their grandchildren to their debts to make sure the Social Security checks keep coming. They who will enslave their children and their grandchildren to their corporations to keep their stock values high.

    They who stood athwart history and yelled "meh." They will always go along to get along.

    The creed of the Boomer:

    "First we came for my parents, and I did not speak up because I'm sure those World War II vets will love the nursing home.

    Then we came for my children, and I did not speak up because of course they'll need two jobs to pay for my entitlements.

    Then we came for my grandchildren, because I need a barista."

  • Re:Bull Shit! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 @01:09PM (#43975509)

    I believe the poll results, but only for one reason. Because the responses were framed in the context of "to fight terrorism."

    I suspect you're right. Poll results are notoriously sensitive to exactly how the questions are phrased. The other problem is that those polled might not understand the entire scope of the program, or have considered how it can be misused and how little protection against misuse there might be (or might not be - that's the charming thing about a secret court). Nevertheless I find the overall results very depressing. IIRC there have been polls from time to time asking people if they believed in the principles of the Bill of Rights (but phrased in such a way that it wasn't obvious they were talking about the Bill of Rights). Unfortunately what many (including me) consider the most important part of American law didn't fare well. Thank goodness the 1st Congress was filled with radicals.

    Make no mistake, this poll was engineered to show the end result. The goal of this is to make people who feel disgusted with PRISM to question why they feel disgusted. If no one else does, perhaps they should just let go and consent.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.