More than half of Americans now say it’s unacceptable for the government to monitor the communications of US citizens, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center on Americans’ privacy strategies post-Snowden.
In 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the explosion of government surveillance programs after 9/11.
Outrage ensued. Americans had no idea the spying had become so pervasive, and many were shocked to learn their phone and email communications may have been monitored.
But even after the Snowden revelations, Americans remain divided on the acceptability of government surveillance: 52% describe themselves as “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government surveillance of Americans’ data and electronic communications, while 46% describe themselves as “not very concerned” or “not at all concerned” about the surveillance, according to the Pew survey.
When it comes to government surveillance of suspected terrorists or foreign leaders, Americans are more than comfortable with government spying: 82% of Pew survey respondents said it’s acceptable to monitor communications of suspected terrorists, while 60% believe it is acceptable to monitor the communications of American leaders.
Interestingly, Americans’ attitudes towards surveillance have not changed much in the last decade. In 2006, roughly 51% of Americans surveyed responded that government surveillance, including wire-tapping, was acceptable, acording to a survey by the Washington Post and Pew Research Center. The same survey revealed that even after Snowden leaked NSA documents, revealing the extensive powers of the agency, 56% of Americans surveyed said such powers were warranted.
Most Americans still believe the government should investigate terrorists even if it intrudes on their own privacy. When asked in 2013 whether they thought the government should be able to monitor everyone’s email to protect against terorrism, 45% of respondents said yes. Two years later, more than half of survey respondents say they are not at all concerned about government surveillance of their own email messages.