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Privacy Government The Internet

Privacy Behaviors Changed Little After Snowden 113

An anonymous reader writes: An article in Communications of the ACM takes a look at how Edward Snowden's revelations about government surveillance have changed privacy behaviors across the world. The results are fairly disappointing. While the news that intelligence agencies were trawling data from everyday citizens sparked an interest in privacy, it was small, and faded quickly. Even through media coverage has continued for a long time after the initial reports, public interest dropped back to earlier levels long ago. The initial interest spike was notably less than for other major news events. Privacy-enhancing behaviors experienced a small surge, but that too failed to impart any long-term momentum. The author notes that the spike in interest "following the removal of privacy-enhancing functions in Facebook, Android, and Gmail" was stronger than the reaction to the government's privacy-eroding actions.
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Privacy Behaviors Changed Little After Snowden

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  • People can't change that radically. However the tech is going to be designed differently. That argument that happened before snowden where someone would tell the security expert he was being paranoid... that will go differently.

    Corporate America is also taking the security more seriously. After Target and Sony they're starting to understand that they have to take this seriously... or else.

    • But the corporate media (including repeaters like /.) are designed to hew closely to the "firehose" reportage which includes drawing conclusions quickly so people stay focused on what's coming next, and anything undesirable that somehow gets reported doesn't stick around in the reported consciousness for long. This is inherently incompatible with real life where, as you say, real change takes far longer to be seen. Adherents to the firehose approach implicitly say their take is a good thing (obviously few w

      • There is too much news to cover the slow way exclusively.

        You need at best a hybrid system with some aspect of the system being a firehose.

        As to this all being corporate media's fault... can you give me a counter non-corporate media example that is better?

        • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday May 25, 2015 @06:52PM (#49771523)

          There is too much news to cover the slow way exclusively.

          No. There's too much irrelevant celebrity bullshit and unimportant fluff to do that, but that kind of "news" is designed to distract, not inform. Only cover the important issues and there's plenty of time.

          As to this all being corporate media's fault... can you give me a counter non-corporate media example that is better?

          Any comedian (and yes, I realize what that implies about what a fucking sad a state of affairs we're really in). In particular, John Stewart, Steven Colbert and John Oliver are infinitely more informative than any allegedly-"actual" "news." And I mean "infinitely" literally, by the way -- measuring the valuable insight of, say, Fox News is like dividing by zero.

          For example, John Oliver devoted an entire half-hour to government surveillance, including an interview with Edward Snowden [youtube.com] where he (humorously) distilled these privacy issues into terms the general public would understand. I'm fucking appalled to have to say this, but that is many orders of magnitude better journalism than I've seen from any of those pathetically worthless toadies who actually call themselves "journalists" in decades.

          And that's not even all! If you look at Youtube's autoplay list for John Oliver's videos, it appears that just about every goddamn episode covers an actually-important issue (civil forfeiture, the wealth gap, crumbling infrastructure, police brutality, net neutrality, etc.) and does it better than anyone in the mainstream media has managed since Walter fucking Cronkite!

          • Even if you strip away the fluff there is too much. You have to pick and choose what you're going to investigate and what you're not.

            Furthermore, the fluff is interesting to a lot of people so you have to report that as well. You do NOT have to investigate it though.

            As to comedians being better at the news... no. Comedians are as good at science as they are at reporting the news.

            They talk about what they think is funny and what will get the crowd on their side.

            Let us say that something is happening that the

            • As to comedians being better at the news... no. Comedians are as good at science as they are at reporting the news. They talk about what they think is funny and what will get the crowd on their side.

              In medieval Europe, it was only the court jester who could, without [much] fear, speak uncomfortable truths to the king.

              You've sadly fallen into the trap of thinking the daily show is an actual news program.

              You misunderstand me: I'm well aware that it's not. The problem is that the "real" news programs are much

              • As to jesters, that's nonsense. The various lords in the oligarchy which is actually what any feudal kingdom is... will of course tell the king when they think he's wrong.

                That does not mean they'll do it disrespectfully. And the various protocols etc for that will shift from one king to the next.

                As to this notion that the king will tolerate a jester contradicting him on political matters... No. In that setting, the jester's job is to DISTRACT the king from stressful matters. Which means if he brings up thin

          • John Oliver and his team are the best investigative journalists in the USA.
            --
            It's a poor workman who blames his tools; a rich workman can afford better tools.

        • by jbn-o ( 555068 )

          What you call "the slow way" is called journalism. Journalism, like scientific work or any other work worth doing, takes time to do. There are plenty of examples of independent journalism being done well, some have already been shared in this thread by others. Here are some more that come to mind: Democracy Now! [democracynow.org], NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal were both quite well done and worth watching reruns/archives (moreso the Journal), CounterPunch [counterpunch.org], Harry Shearer's weekly Le Show [soundcloud.com], and The Real News [therealnews.com]. All

    • People can't change that radically. However the tech is going to be designed differently. That argument that happened before snowden where someone would tell the security expert he was being paranoid... that will go differently.

      Corporate America is also taking the security more seriously. After Target and Sony they're starting to understand that they have to take this seriously... or else.

      This. Security will be taken a little more seriously, which helps a little. There will be a *little* more oversight and pushback within government, which helps a little. It's not a fix; it's patch. What we're seeing is very similar to the response that small companies tend to make to a major security breach--they plug that particular hole, they tighten security a little bit, and they respond a little bit to public concern. It's a net positive but still not enough considering the risk of abuse of mass s

    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      People can't change that radically.

      Schneier suggests that actually they have [schneier.com], and that media is mis-reporting the results:

      It's worth reading these results in detail. Overall, these numbers are consistent with a worldwide survey from December. The press is spinning this as "Most Americans' behavior unchanged after Snowden revelations, study finds," but I see something very different. I see a sizable percentage of Americans not only concerned about government surveillance, but actively doing something about it. "Third of Americans shield data

    • More like we're just at the end of our rope. At some point, when your neighbor won't stop peaking in your house, you either completely wall yourself off from the world or you say screw it and walk around in your skivvies all day and say 'enjoy the show'. At least in the later you don't have to lose out.
  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @01:19PM (#49769575)
    In order to form a more secure union, establish control, insure domestic profitability, provide for the common subjugation and secure the blessings of security to ourselves and our chattel do ordain and establish this reinterpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America.

    Any questions?

  • I didn't change my behaviour because I was already doing what I could to protect myself from spammers, scammers, sniffers, man-in-the-middle attacks, and other such annoying and often illegal behaviour. Wherever encryption was available, I used it.

    Being somewhat paranoid due to my periodic bi-polar "manic" periods, I already was convinced the goobernmints and corporations of the world were up to nefarious snooping and hacking. Snowden didn't "inform" me of anything; all he did was confirm what I already believed.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @01:53PM (#49769797) Homepage

      Being somewhat paranoid due to my periodic bi-polar "manic" periods, I already was convinced the goobernmints and corporations of the world were up to nefarious snooping and hacking

      Of course the problem with this characterization is it somehow implies that this is something only people with mental illness believe.

      The reality is, it is now an objective fact that it is true.

      But for some reason this fact hasn't sunk in, and people keep acting like it's solely for paranoids and other crazy people to be concerned about.

      And that's simply not true.

      • by msobkow ( 48369 )

        Yeah, but I only "saw" evidence of tampering when I was having manic episodes while unmedicated. Until you've dealt with clinical paranoia, you have no idea just how terrifying it is to think that every black SUV you see is an undercover cop, that everyone with a bluetooth headset is with CSIS/GCHQ/NSA/FBI/CIA, or to hear "voices" in the rumble of a furnace duct.

        'tis scary shit, and far from realistic.

        • I will not in any way attempt to say that I understand the entirety or magnitude of the issue. While I've known people with mental illnesses, that doesn't mean I can truly understand it.

          But I lament that one has to describe internet privacy and security as something which you have to be in the throes of a clinical mental illness to appreciate.

          Because these days, a perfectly sane and rational person should be assuming that governments are, in fact, spying on them. Or at the very least have the capacity to

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Why privacy because a citizen has it and a slave does not. The freedom to keep yourself to yourself versus being slavishly continuously exposed to the inspection and judgement of others. Privacy is about the choice to be private, loss of privacy is the loss of that choice, that choice being denied and even worse the association with public humiliation and degradation that comes with that loss of choice.

        Now, strangely enough challenge those with power enough and you have to abandon privacy otherwise they

    • I didn't change my behviour because there are terrorists everywhere and I have nothing to hide and thus nothing to fear. The government said this is the best course of action for my beautiful young children who need to be kept safe.

      If I choke on my own vomit after this post will it be covered by healthcare?

  • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @01:28PM (#49769631)
    Why should it have made a difference? I had always assumed that this kind of surveillance went on. I was suprised that people were suprised by Snowden's revelations.
    • It should have made a difference by raising awareness of the issue, and confirming what was previously only suspicion. Unfortunately what I think played out is that people just don't care in general - and those who do care, already cared before Snowden.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Perhaps you were exceptionally imaginative or knowledgeable, but most people, even security experts, didn't think it went as far as it turned out to. Honestly, did you think that the NSA routinely intercepted Cisco equipment being exported, installed back doors in it at a special facility, and then passed it on to its destination all in secret? Did you really think they were recording every single phone call made in certain foreign countries, or violating the US constitution millions of times a day?

      If you d

  • Unfortunately, there isn't anything really to do to increase your privacy unless you want to give everything up. Sure, I could start using PGP and encrypt all my emails. That would work great until I actually wanted to send and email to someone, because no one else I know uses PGP. I can use a "secure" search engine, but there is no way to tell if it is really secure or if I am just using an inferior product to make myself feel better. Sure, I can avoid Facebook and Twitter and everything else, but again, I

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the Facebook generation, who cheerfully gives all their email to Google, their personal info to Facebook, uses Tumblr to communicate with their friends, and uploads all their selfies.

    They don't care about privacy. In fact, they go out of their way to destroy the privacy they could have had, in exchange for a tiny bit of convenience.

    • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @02:09PM (#49769895)
      The problem is that they don't notice their privacy being compromised during the daily use of the service. Maybe they will see some tailored advertisements but that's it. If they would get a detailed report about what information is pulled from their messages and how it is used, then maybe they would change their minds about using the service. All the datamining happens quietly in the background. It's a discreet man-in-the-middle operation.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @01:43PM (#49769737)
    First, as the Washington Post states, "Voter turnout in primary elections this year has been abysmal." People complain about government policy, yet don't exercise their power to change it. They would rather "like" something on Facebook, like that has some power to change policy. If you were able to get all those likes to turn to votes, you could have an impact on policy. Second, if you don't want companies tracking your Internet usage, stop clicking on advertisements. Get all your Facebook friends to stop clicking. Soon they will be unprofitable and will go away. Just complaining about it doesn't change anything. Protesting in the street doesn't change anything, unless you get people to change their habits. If you can't find anyone who supports your viewpoint to vote for, run yourself.
    • I presume you are talking about the USA. How much does policy change in nations where voter turnout is higher?
    • Well in Australia where we are forced to vote we voted with hate against the previous government's policies. Now the current government is implementing policies we don't like. Best of all the erosion of our rights is not a partisan issue and all major parties supported the data retention laws except the greens who are bat shit crazy and shouldn't be in power either.

      Tell me again who I should vote for?

    • You certainly don't need to click on ads to have your internet usage tracked. Tracking is usually done through cookies or scripts. But even if you disable scripts and cookies, Google will still track all your searches and YouTube videos, and scan the content of your emails. Facebook will do the same for all the data on your account with them, too. The only way to stop that tracking is to not use their systems.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If you were able to get all those likes to turn to votes, you could have an impact on policy.

      Only a small one, if that. The reality is that those new voters would probably have the same voting habits as the people who do vote, so the outcome would be more or less the same. Part of the problem is the lack of granularity with elections - you get to elect someone for 4-5 years with a raft of policies. You don't get a say on individual policies or decisions, do you have to vote for the person who seems the least bad overall instead of for specific changes you want.

      Second, if you don't want companies tracking your Internet usage, stop clicking on advertisements. Get all your Facebook friends to stop clicking. Soon they will be unprofitable and will go away.

      You mean like TV, radio, billboard and

    • The problem with voting is the same as the problem with Facebook: It doesn't capture dislikes. The majority of voters who liked a candidate in 2004 may have liked Bush, but maybe more people disliked him than liked him. Capturing dislike would allow people to go to the polls and register their displeasure with the candidate(s) offered, even if they don't like either of the choices. If someone can't exceed the number of dislikes with likes, then they probably shouldn't hold office, regardless of whether o

    • The largest public response (at least at the time) to a government action was to TARP. MILLIONS of people contacted their representatives and told them to vote against it.

      You can see how well that turned out.

      And in fact, the Tea Party really gained steam as a response to "drive the rascals out" that voted for it.

      You can see how well that went too.

      Fact of the matter is our government is broken, and by my estimation has been broken for some time now.

      And in case you haven't been paying attention, people riotin

  • Look at what people willingly broadcast to the public over Twitter/Facebook.

    Given that, why would you think they would care at all about privacy?

    If you believe in privacy, you can't make the vast majority of people care about it. All we can do as computer professionals is try to provide as much privacy as possible, for those that do not know nor care...

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Reply to undo bad mod.
    • Good point. It seems that practicality trumps privacy for a lot of people.
    • "If you believe in privacy, you can't make the vast majority of people care about it."

      What a bullshit claim. You seem to be claiming, ala Zuckerberg, that people posting "personal" details on Facebook that you wouldn't post is an indication that they don't value their privacy. I guess it never occurred to you that, no matter how "personal" the nature of the typical Facebook account, those same people have plenty going on that they don't want made public. Claiming that "kids today don't value their privac

      • I guess it never occurred to you that, no matter how "personal" the nature of the typical Facebook account, those same people have plenty going on that they don't want made public.

        Ar you sure? Why are you sure? There is absolutely zero indication that a large majority of people really care.

        You need to back up your assertion with something beyond your own supposition - I have illustrated that many, many people post very private stuff all the time. Where is the equally large scale indications of people tryi

        • Are you really asking for all the posts that people don't make on social media?
        • OK. We get it. You are a moron who thinks that philosophical rhetoric can somehow pass as anything other than a blatant claim to the world that you are the epitome of stupidity. Bravo.
  • by oyenamit ( 2474702 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @02:26PM (#49770001)
    "The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change"

    - Edward Snowden, at the end of Terms and Conditions May Apply [imdb.com]
  • Vast majority of the consumers are like the frog in a pan that is being heated up very gradually [wikipedia.org]. The frog doesn't realize it but it will be eventually cooked alive.
    These consumers are slowly opting-in, slowly uploading their personal photos, slowly allowing their personal emails to be scanned until one day, they would realize how far down the road they have come.
  • by Stargoat ( 658863 ) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Monday May 25, 2015 @02:59PM (#49770203) Journal

    It's too damn complicated for level 1 techs, let alone end users and the general public, to attempt to opt of surveillance, or even intelligently express their dissatisfaction with government and corporate policies.

    Politicians don't care and corporations do. These policies will persist until people's lives are strongly negatively affected. Will it require significant damage as a result of foreign powers hacking into the industrial grid? Probably. God knows we aren't in the streets protesting TSA security theater, and its difficult to get more privacy invasive than seeing folks naked.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's too damn complicated for level 1 techs, let alone end users and the general public, to attempt to opt of surveillance, or even intelligently express their dissatisfaction with government and corporate policies.

      Anyone can install a VPN client. A level 1 tech should be able to set up Thunderbird with GPG. uBlock/AdBlock and Privacy Badger are just a couple of clicks away. It isn't hard to do these things, but they have a massive impact.

      The problem is not the difficulty, it's the lack of awareness that these options even exist.

  • This could be because an oligarchy [princeton.edu] can get its way, even when the majority doesn't support it's actions.
  • by HuskyDog ( 143220 ) on Monday May 25, 2015 @03:46PM (#49770497) Homepage
    Just suppose that following Snowden a large percentage of the population decided to significantly increase the security of the internet use. This would force the NSA et al to increase power of their automated collection systems to compensate and those of us already taking enhanced security measures would lose out. If the populous does nothing then the NSA can just continue as they were.
    Of course, one could argue that this lack of popular action simply makes security concious users stand out in the eyes of the NSA and attracts special attention. But perhaps this is also a good thing. Allow me to explain:
    I start with the precept that the NSA will be able to gain access to practically everything I do online (and probably offline) no matter what I do. Given this, I would far rather be a special case. Imagine somone at NSA HQ clicking the "Collect and analyse all internet traffic from the UK" icon. Their computers hoover up some vast number of terabytes including mine and finds little of interest. The operative takes another bite from his apple and clicks the next icon "Collect and analyse all.....". My data has been spied on and I am iritated, but unless he finds a rotten bit of apple he isn't.
    Now imagine that my security is rather better than most. The operative clicks the icon, but gets an error saying "Data from Huskydog not available". Gosh, thinks the operative, someone hiding their information, I must have stumbled upon an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell. He puts down his apple and starts to dig deeper. Eventually, after some time and effort he breaks in and ..... Nothing! (or at least nothing interesting to the NSA). He has wasted considerable time, his apple has gone brown and he has nothing to show for it. I am just as iritated as before, but now he is iritated as well.
    So, given that we wish to iritate the NSA (and that is probably we worst we can hope to do to them) perhaps the best solution is to have a significant number of special cases which stand out from the easy to access heard and thus require special time consuming efforts to spy on but with nothing to show for it in the end.
    • Absolutely right. I use strong crypto routinely because I can, not because I really have anything to hide.

      I would be happy if they waste time and CPU cycles on me. That in itself will help others. And if everybody did what I do, I don't think they could afford the cost of keeping up, though I'm sure that would not stop them from trying.

  • it doesn't matter if your everyday joe changes or not because it's the software developers that got the wakeup call.

    • Further to this.....and not to minimize mass surveillance which I find repugnant.....for most people the countermeasures required to protect themselves from spying is just too inconvenient to make it worthwhile. Most people really don't have anything that important to hide. It will be a plus if developers make it easier for everyone to protect themselves going forward.

      But what matters now is that the small percentage of people who really do need to keep secrets from government are now taking measures to d

  • What exactly is it that I'm supposed to do?

    Sure, I use SSL when it is available, I use AdBlock et al., I stay off of the social networking sites, but c'mon: What exactly is it that I'm supposed to do? If the government wants to snoop on me then it will. There's really nothing I can do about it.

    "Encrypt all your email!" Mmhmm. Yeah, okay, sure. That will work out great when I want to send a message to my technologically normal friends and family. Web-based encrypted mail is a farce anyway - you're still rely

  • This news is about as surprising as the Sun rising in the morning. As I, and others, have explained multiple times across the years - the average person isn't the tinfoil hat privacy nutter that so many here on Slashdot are.

  • 1) Technology companies are pushing back, and it is enough to get the Intel folks to complain. This gives the average Joe more tools to work with.
    2) Congress is also pushing back. I am amazed at how the Intel folks can say (with a straight face) "congress approved all this and was fully briefed and should have known". Because many in congress don't feel like they were appropriately briefed. I think that is behind the recent stalemate in congress.

  • It's how we operate. We all know that overeating is bad for us -- down the road, but does that stop us? No. It takes a heart attack that we (hopefully) survive, or that of a loved one to make us change. We don't change behaviors just because we know we should, or demand change that we know is good for us. It takes a crisis.

    Once these technologies are abused wholesale, then we'll see change. Until then, I wouldn't hold my breath.

  • by iq145 ( 2720165 )
    Snowflake threw his life away for nothing!

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