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America To NSA: Read My Emails, Please

Pew Research CenterThe Pew Research centre asked Americans this month about the balance between investigating terrorist threats and protecting personal privacy.

And they found that we’re not all that into privacy — by about two-to-one, we say investigating terrorism is more important.

56% said it was “acceptable” for the NSA to get secret court orders to track the cell phone data of millions of Americans.

45% even said they were OK with the government monitoring everyone’s email and online activities “if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks.”

One interesting aspect of these poll results is the partisan hypocrisy: Having a Democratic president has made Democrats more inclined toward surveillance and Republicans less so. But the more important finding is simply that public support for intrusive surveillance is high, under both Republican and Democratic presidents.

Americans are willing to tolerate a high degree of loss of privacy on the grounds that giving up privacy will make us safer from terrorism. We should only expect the government to become more respectful of privacy if public opinion on that matter changes.

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