People trust NSA more than Google, survey says

In a result consistent with previous polling, a new poll has respondents claiming they're more concerned about Google seeing all their private data than the government.

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People claim to trust Google less than they trust the NSA. Are they telling the truth? TED 2014/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

People don't always say what they think. Especially in business and love.

Please, therefore, consider this question: whom would you trust more with your private data: the NSA, a company like Google, or your mom?

I ask because I'm looking at the results of a survey, conducted between October 9 and12, that asked just that. It asked simple questions, to which its sponsors hoped to get simple answers.

The results went like this. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being "I am shivering uncontrollably with fear") the idea of Google or a similar concern having access to all your private data got a concerned score of 7.39.

The idea of the NSA having its eyes and hands all over you? 7.06. What about your boss snooping? That merited a mere 6.85. While the notion of your parents knowing it all got a 5.93.

Of the options open to the respondents, they were most relaxed about their spouse or significant other seeing their everyday warts. This idea scored a mere 4.55.

The survey was created by Survata, a company whose purpose is to interrupt content by asking people to complete a survey before they get the whole content. Survata claims in its methodological explanation that it carefully vets those it thinks might offer insincerity.

I wonder, however. If these results are to be believed, then humanity is rife with those who speak out of several sides of their mouth. On the one hand, we claim to fear Google most, yet we allow it, Facebook and the like to crawl over our daily routines and information like summer flies enjoying a rancid grapefruit.

Yet the results are rather consistent with a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll of last year. It revealed that the majority of Americans are perfectly accepting of the NSA tracking their phone records. In that survey, 45 percent even said they thought the NSA's intrusions should go further.

What's interesting about the Survata poll is that those surveyed were predominantly young. Well, ish. There were 2,566 respondents, all from the US, aged between 13 and 44. Some 59.8 percent were female, 40.2 percent were male. Just over half were aged between 13 and 24.

How odd that those who appear to be most comfortable sharing everything with everyone claim that they distrust the likes of Google more than anyone.

I asked Survata's co-founder, Chris Kelly, what he thought were the reasons. He told me: "Survata was surprised to see respondents said they'd be more upset with a company like Google seeing their personal data than the NSA. We did not ask respondents for the reasons or motivations behind their answers; so we can only conjecture based on our previous research. One guess is that respondents assume the NSA is only looking for 'guilty' persons when scouring personal data, whereas a company like Google would use personal data to serve ads or improve their own products."

Could it be that on some subliminal level we know what's going on and we just can't help ourselves? Could it be that we want to care more about privacy, but the sheer free ease offered by the likes of Google and Facebook is too much to resist?

It's not as if these companies are excessively shy about what they do. Who could forget these sturdy words offered by Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer: "We want to be really, really clear that whenever you give us information, we're going to take it."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that after Edward Snowden's revelations, his company and Google suffered a diminution of trust.

Perhaps they never really had that much. And perhaps people are just too self-regarding to care.

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