Google data collection worries Americans more than NSA

Google data collection worries Americans more than NSA
Americans may not like the fact that the National Security Agency is collecting data on their phone calls and emails, but it turns out they are even more concerned over another surveillance threat: Google.

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In a survey conducted by the consumer feedback service Survata, the company asked internet users just how angry they would be if they discovered various groups or individuals had gained access to essentially all of their personal data online.

“To evaluate this, we polled over 2,500 respondents with two surveys — one gauging concern with the NSA and a corporation like Google gaining access to personal data, and one with bosses, significant others, and parents,”
the company wrote online. “Overall, the results show respondents were most concerned by a company like Google gaining this access, as shown by the average level of concern.”

Survey participants responded to these questions by choosing a number between one to 10, with one meaning they would not care and 10 meaning they would be “extremely upset.”

In response to the idea that Google would gain access to their data, the average score was 7.39. For comparison, the average score regarding the NSA was 7.06.

Meanwhile, in the event that their boss gained access to their data, respondents scored the possibility with a 6.85. The prospect of the participants' parents snooping on their digital life received a 5.93.

In a statement to CNET, Survata co-founder Chris Kelly said the company did not expect to see the results it did.

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"Survata was surprised to see respondents said they'd be more upset with a company like Google seeing their personal data than the NSA,” he said. “We did not ask respondents for the reasons or motivations behind their answers; so we can only conjecture based on our previous research. One guess is that respondents assume the NSA is only looking for 'guilty' persons when scouring personal data, whereas a company like Google would use personal data to serve ads or improve their own products."

Still, CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk noted that most of the survey takers were between the ages of 13 and 44, a group that has typically been the most willing to give up its personal data to social media giants and other digital application developers.

“If these results are to be believed, then humanity is rife with those who speak out of several sides of their mouth,” he wrote. “On the one hand, we claim to fear Google most, yet we allow it, Facebook and the like to crawl over our daily routines and information like summer flies enjoying a rancid grapefruit.”

That sentiment has been echoed by other prominent voices, notably NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Earlier this month, Snowden called networks like Facebook and Google “dangerous” for being hostile to privacy and not allowing encrypted messages.

READ MORE: Spying and storing: Assange says 'Google works like NSA'

In September, meanwhile, Assange compared Google to the NSA, saying it generates revenue by gathering and selling individuals’ data.

“Google’s business model is the spy. It makes more than 80 percent of its money by collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behavior, and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also others,” he said.

“So the result is that Google, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ.”