Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

December 23, 2013

Americans uneasy about surveillance but often use snooping tools

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

She is not particularly bothered by the intimate knowledge Wegmans collects about her grocery shopping, because she gains from the exchange — the store offers her discounts. But she finds the storehouse of information that Facebook and Google collect about users to be creepy and intrusive, because she does not see any benefit from giving them her data.

Go ahead, listen to my calls, track my movements, said Terry Brickerd, mother of college and high school students and vice president of the parents association for Broad Run High in Ashburn: "I don't care. I don't have anything to hide. Because they're not listening to us individually — they look for patterns. So what's the big deal? I mean, without that, how many terror attacks would we have?"

Brickerd does not mind when companies track her purchases and online searches, either. "I'm glad American Express tracks me, because twice they've called me when something unusual happened, and that protected me," she said.

The Washington Post poll found Americans almost equally bothered by government surveillance as they are by corporate snooping, with 69 percent concerned about tracking by Internet search and social-media companies and 66 percent worried about what the government does. Overall, more-educated and affluent Americans were less likely to be concerned about surveillance. Political conservatives tended to be more concerned about government surveillance.

The survey did not find significant differences in attitudes toward government surveillance across age groups. Forty-five percent of Americans younger than 30, more than any other age group, said they were "very concerned" about how sites such as Facebook and Twitter use their information.

"What privacy? On the Internet, there is almost no privacy," said Austin McCuiston, 19, a food runner at Ford's Fish Shack in Ashburn, near the epicenter of Loudoun's 4.5 million square feet of data centers. He is very cautious about what he posts on Facebook or other Internet services. "People can take that stuff and really dig into your life."

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