More than a third of Americans who are aware of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations have taken at least one step to protect their information.
A new study by the Pew Research Centre, found that 34 per cent of those with knowledge of government surveillance had taken action, which corresponds to 30 per cent of US adults in total.
The results reflect a growing lack of trust regarding online privacy, with 17 per cent having changed their social media privacy settings in response to the Snowden documents. Other popular security measures included avoiding certain applications (13 per cent) and choosing to speak more in person rather than online (14 per cent).
The survey also highlights the impact that the revelations have had on the public’s everyday life, with a quarter admitting that they have changed their patterns of use across technological platforms “a great deal” or “somewhat.” 18 per cent admitted that the way they used email had changed, 17 per cent said it had affected the way they use search engines, while 15 per cent have altered their mobile phone behaviour.
Often, the respondents that have not taken additional steps to protect their privacy believe that the tools required to do this are difficult to obtain. 43 per cent have not adopted or considered using privacy-enhancing browser plug-ins, with 31 per cent being unaware that such tools exist. 46 per cent have also not considered email encryption programs.
Despite the widespread condemnation of the NSA’s surveillance tactics, the Pew survey indicates that the American public are divided on the issue. 61 per cent have now become less confident that surveillance programmes are serving public interest, but interestingly, 37 per cent are now more confident. 48 per cent also believe that the courts are balancing the interests of national security with personal privacy, while 49 per cent believe they are not.
Overall, the research reveals that privacy is a complicated issue for many and when it comes to matters of security, perhaps some level of compromise is willing to be made.