If we decided to judge how people were reacting to PRISM by observing posts on social-media sites and reading a few op-eds, it would appear as though an overwhelming majority of people were opposed to the NSA’s actions. However, the public’s view on surveillance may surprise you.
According to a poll conducted by Pew Research Center and the Washington Post after PRISM was leaked, 56% of the participants approved of the NSA’s decision to track phone records while 41% deemed it unacceptable. In terms of how the public views searching through online communications, 45% said it is acceptable for the NSA to search through emails and other online communications to prevent terrorist attacks while 52% said the government should not have access to online activities. Sixty-two percent of participants said it was more important to allow the government to search for possible terrorist threats even if it meant giving up their privacy, while only 34% prioritize privacy over investigating terrorist threats.
The poll also includes statistics on partisan views, how young people’s views differ from those of people from older age groups, and as statistics on how closely people are following NSA news, all which can be accessed by clicking this link. More information on the methods by which this data was collected and how these methods affected the demographics of the survey sample can also be found on the link above.
Given that we live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites in which people have grown accustomed to publishing and exchanging personal information, it is understandable that more people were opposed to email searches than phone surveillance. However, there is evidently still an overall strong prioritization of security over privacy which in itself is not problematic but perhaps could be if we consider this question: Will allowing the NSA access to our personal information lead to more intrusive and unlawful surveillance in the future?