Two years after Snowden leaks, public split on government spying

Two years after Snowden leaks, public split on government spying
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The nation is split on its feelings about government surveillance programs, with 52 percent saying they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about broad spying powers, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

Yet only about 30 percent of Americans have taken some measures to protect their personal information, such as editing privacy controls on social media sites, avoiding certain applications or speaking on social media less often. 

Additionally, only a tiny slice of the public has adopted encryption technology, used the anonymous Tor browsing software or taken advantage of other sophisticated tools to avoid federal programs that warrantlessly monitor people’s phone and electronic communications.

The survey’s results paint a picture of general unease with operations of the National Security Agency nearly two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the spy agency, though many people appear unprepared to employ robust digital protections. 

“Some are shifting their basic behaviors with technology, but few are making big changes using sophisticated tools,” authors wrote.

Even while most people said they were concerned by the programs, many endorsed the government monitoring some communications.

Of those polled, 60 percent said it was okay to monitor the communications of American or foreign leaders, while 54 percent approve of monitoring foreign citizens’ communications. 

Among those who had heard about the surveillance programs, 61 percent said they have become less confident that they serve the public interest, while 37 percent said they had become more confident.

The new poll comes weeks before Congress dives back in on the question of government surveillance, ahead of a June 1 deadline.

On that day, the law authorizing the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is set to expire, which critics of the agency say gives them leverage to demand some changes.

The survey questioned 475 adults between Nov. 26 and Jan. 3.