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Government Privacy

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

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 khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:27PM (#45861683)

    The private companies are collecting the data for the government.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:50PM (#45861879)

    In the worst case, it is exactly like a private company (looking after its pockets).

    No. That is not the worst case. The worst case for government is when they murder millions of their own citizens. Like this [], this [], this [], this [], or this [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:52PM (#45861899)

    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.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:04PM (#45861987)

    Americans trust – naively – corporations more than the government.

    Why is that naive? Corporations want money. Governments want power, and "more money" is only a subset of that. Corporations know that if they abuse my trust too much, they will lose my business. Governments have no such limitations on their abuse. Governments can send men with guns to kick in my front door. I have very little trust in corporations, but even less in government. That is not "naive", but rational.

  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:06PM (#45861995)
    A private organization can exist for any number of reasons, and the means through which they get money from you don't need to involve you getting screwed. Believe it or not, a transaction can exist for mutual benefit.
  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Friday January 03, 2014 @08:13PM (#45862049)
    They would exist, but they would be very, very unpopular and probably less common than they are today. Killing people is hard and dangerous. In a free market, it would be very expensive for anyone good at it, and anybody bad at it wouldn't stay in business very long. That's why you see violent organized crime pop up when there is highly profitable contraband. The rewards, or at least the potential rewards, are great in those markets, so you can convince someone to kill for that.
  • 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. [] 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:24AM (#45864203) Journal

    Governments can send men with guns to kick in my front door

    You miss the corollary of this, which is that governments are the reason why corporations can't send men with guns to kick in your front door...

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun