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Most Americans think the government is snooping on them

Commentary: A new Pew survey says Americans think the government is spying on them. Surprisingly, Muslim Americans are less likely to feel that way.

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

Encryption button on keyboard

Do we now expect that someone is always looking over our shoulder?

Getty Images

When you're sending a little email do you worry that some representative of Big Brother is going to try to read it?

When you make a phone call, do you suspect that one government security service or another might choose to listen in at the flick of a switch or click of a mouse?

I only ask because of a fascinating new Pew survey. It specifically examined the Muslim American experience by talking to 1,001 Muslim Americans aged 18 and over between Jan. 23 and May 2 this year. 

It offered, though, some sobering thoughts for all and about all.

As might be expected in our torrid times, Muslim Americans believe that instances of discrimination are increasing. They also say that media coverage of Islam is unfair.

Yet one statistic seems more surprising. It concerns government snooping on phone calls and emails.

A total of 59 percent of US Muslims believe their communications are being surveilled by Big Brother. You might be surprised that its only 59 percent. That leaves 41 percent with a remarkably trusting attitude towards authority. 

And then you see how trusting the general American population is. A fulsome 70 percent of Americans believe the government is monitoring their emails and calls. (The research on the general public was performed between Feb. 7 to 12 this year). 

You might ponder why Americans as a whole are even more suspicious of the government than are Muslim Americans. 

You might also ponder that Muslim American women are just as suspicious as the rest of America (70 percent), while more Muslim American men (52 percent) don't think it's likely that the government is surveilling them.  

That is faith.

Neither the National Security Agency nor the Department of Justice responded immediately to a request for comment.

At the heart of all this prevailing suspicion, though, isn't merely an American culture that places individualism on a pedestal and treats government with the suspicion of a militia member.

Advances in technology have surely made us believe that surveillance must be taking place.

We've all come to realize the new digital world has made it far easier for everyone to snoop. 

After all, Google, Facebook and the like seem to magically serve us ads on the basis of exactly what we've been thinking about five or 10 minutes ago.

The onrush of artificial intelligence will surely only make this magic more pronounced and accurate. 

Disappearing privacy and embedded suspicion now feel like the norm. We've willingly given up a lot of ourselves in order to buy objects more conveniently and tell others about our lives more readily.

Is it too late to consider whether it's actually a good thing?

Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

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