Don't snoop on our e-mails to catch online drug dealers

Don't snoop on our e-mails to catch online drug dealers

Most Americans are unaware of internet drug markets - and state efforts to shut them down - but most still oppose monitoring internet usage to help stop the online drug trade.

On October 2nd the FBI shut one of the most famous online drug markets - 'Silk Road' - as part of a wider push to shut down illegal websites on what is known as the 'dark' internet. Before its demise at the hands of the FBI, Silk Road saw over $1 billion worth of drugs bought and sold according to papers in the upcoming trial of the site's owner, Ross Ulbricht. 

The latest research from YouGov shows that a majority of Americans (55%) don't think that law enforcement should be able to monitor internet usage, such as e-mails and browsing histories, in order to stop the online drug trade. 30% of Americans support law enforcement having those powers, similar to the powers the NSA and other federal agencies have as part of their mission to prevent terrorist attacks.

Older Americans are far more likely than younger Americans to support giving the police these powers. Only 22% of under-30s support law enforcement having this power compared to 40% of over-65s. Even among over-65s, however, opposition to this exceeds support, with 46% opposing granting the police these powers. 

This opposition seems to reflect attitudes toward internet privacy more than views on how good of a job law enforcement is doing at controlling the buying and selling of drugs online. Research done in June showed that, in the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks about NSA domestic spying, 57% of Americans said that 'it should be harder' for the government to access their private information. 

47% of Americans are 'not sure' about whether the government is doing enough to stop the trade online, with 8% thinking it is doing too much, 17% thinking that it is doing the right amount while 27% of Americans say that not enough is being done.

Americans are also largely unaware that drugs could be bought or sold online, with 49% saying that they had heard 'nothing at all' about the practice and 77% having never heard of 'Silk Road'.


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