Giving Up Safety for Privacy

    cyber security

    When you take an airplane, do you ever think about the privacy you forfeit to make sure everyone travels safely? Current generations have witnessed terrible terrorist attacks and senseless school violence, and a recent Gallup poll found that 48% of Americans are worried about themselves or a family member being a victim of a mass shooting. SafeHome.org surveyed over 1,000 Americans to see when they wanted more security, how they felt about who was watching them, and how often they thought privacy was less important than security. 

    Americans Want More Security

    Fifty-three percent of the participants said they wanted Americans to be surveyed more often. Surprisingly, nearly 6 in 10 Gen Zers vocalized the need for more monitoring. While the majority agreed they wanted more surveillance, not everyone agreed with who they were comfortable doing the surveying: 45% of Americans were uncomfortable being monitored by private companies, and 42% were uncomfortable being monitored by the government. 

    When it came to who was doing the watching, more people saw a negative effect of government surveillance, especially regarding trust in the government, freedom of verbal expression, freedom of searching the web, and freedom of expression on social media. Again, Gen Zers were the most likely generation to perceive the positive effect of heightened surveillance in all areas of the survey. While many saw a negative effect on privacy because of government surveillance, the majority of people surveyed saw a positive effect of government surveillance on dark web crime rates.

    When Are We Willing to Trade Privacy for Safety?

    Overwhelmingly, people were comfortable trading privacy for potential safety on airplanes. However, willingness to trade personal privacy for the better good decreased with scenarios like social media companies sharing information with the FBI or the government having access to people’s phones or credit card usage data. The study went further and found political affiliation determined people’s willingness to give up personal privacy for security. Overall, Republican respondents were more willing than Democrats to sacrifice personal privacy for every scenario the survey covered. 

    Where Do We Feel Safe?

    Safety can sometimes depend on where you are. The study analyzed people’s thoughts about how safe they felt in a variety of environments, from being at home to using ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft. A majority of people felt safe at places like their home, an airport, or their bank, while public streets and ride-hailing vehicles were about equally likely to be perceived as unsafe. Fifty-six percent of people felt safe at school, but 59% surveyed also felt the need for higher security measures at educational institutions. 

    What About Our Children’s Security?

    With seemingly constant headlines about mass shootings in schools, it’s no wonder people feel less safe in these environments. How much privacy are we willing to give up, though, to attempt to prevent these attacks? The study found that 72% of parents were prepared to sacrifice their child’s privacy if it could potentially prevent a school shooting by monitoring kids’ internet activity. Further, participants almost unanimously agreed with the need to survey students’ internet history for phrases connected to school shootings, cyberbullying, and suicide. 

    Surveillance Is Here to Stay

    From events like 9/11 to frequent school shootings, events in our history have forced us to depend on security measures. While we know it is a necessary evil, how much of our own privacy are we willing to sacrifice? The study found that the answer to that question depends on a person’s age, political affiliation, and location. Overwhelmingly, everyone agreed that heightened security is needed in places like airports and schools because of the tragedies we’ve witnessed. While privacy is important, protecting the ones we care about still comes first for most Americans.

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