Americans don't trust government or corporations with their privacy, Pew Survey says

Technically Incorrect: Only 6 percent of adults say they are "very confident" that government agencies will keep their records secure.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

And what might he think of this survey? HBO; screenshot by CNET

We cheerily give away our personal information every day.

Often, we don't even know where it ends up or who can see it. Yet here we are claiming that we don't trust anybody. There's something touching about our ability to elevate our hypocrisy to glorious levels.

This is surely one conclusion to be reached after reading the Pew Report on privacy, security and surveillance, published today.

Apparently, 93 percent of American adults declare that "being in control of who can get information about them is important." How odd, then, that those 93 percent (if not more) have apparently given zero percent thought to how to maintain that control.

Instead, we search, online shop, post gloriously vital information to Facebook and then think not at all in whose (and how many) hands it ends up.

In this survey, 90 percent of Americans also insisted that controlling what information was collected about them was important. But we've never been too good at addressing the important things in life, have we?

Naturally, the deeper the researchers delved, the more these respondents expressed their discomfort.

A mere 6 percent claimed to be "very confident" that government agencies can keep their personal information secure, as well as private. A further 25 percent, however, said they were "somewhat confident."

When confidence is qualified by the word "somewhat," it's like green being qualified by the word "black."

But we're not just worried about governments. Not at all. A mere (and perhaps the same mere) 6 percent of respondents claimed to be "very confident" that landline phone companies would keep their data private. Even fewer -- 5 percent -- felt that way about cell phone providers. A painful 1 percent were very confident about their social networks being secure with their data.

However, a fulsome 9 percent were very confident about their credit card companies.

Some might imagine that this is like being in a marriage where we know our spouse is cheating, but we just don't want to think about it.

As my evidence, may I point to the very same Pew Survey and offer that 91 percent of these respondents said they had changed precisely zero in their phone and Web behavior to address these alleged discomforts.

Pew's methodology relies on collecting data (securely and privately, I imagine) from various sources. It says the majority of this report relies on information culled from 498 adults aged 18 and over who were examined between August 5 and September 2 last year. A further survey was conducted early this year -- between January 27 and February 16 -- among 461 adults aged 18 and over.

This Memorial Day weekend, you might reach for a great American novel to ease you through. You might catch up on deep and serious movies or TV shows that evoke what our nation has become today.

But there are surely few more-expressive expositions of the human condition and its slight shortcomings than this Pew Survey.

We care deeply. We worry constantly. And what do we do about it? Why, nothing. We're too busy online shopping.

And somewhere Edward Snowden must wonder whether it was all worth it.