Americans don't trust the NSA or large internet firms, and most feel that they have little or no control over their data.
The Guardian first revealed that the NSA had been recording the metadata - data about phone calls - of every call made by every Verizon customer on June 5th. Since then further information has been leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, showing that major internet companies have also cooperated with the NSA in providing access to online personal data such as e-mails and online searches. The Obama administration has insisted that all this is legal according to the Patriot Act and earlier legislation concerning the intelligence services, but even the original sponsor of the Patriot Act has said that this goes far beyond what was first intended. New research from YouGov Omnibus shows that Americans are highly distrustful of both the NSA's explanations and assurances and large internet companies.
When asked whether they believe the NSA when it says that it does not listen in on calls but rather just collects data about the calls, only 17% say that they believe that they are telling the truth. 56% believe that the NSA is actually listening in on phone conversations on a regular basis.
35% say that they support the collection of metadata, while 59% oppose it even as a counter-terror measure.
A majority of the public is actually sceptical of claims that this information has stopped a terrorist attack. 54% say that believe it has not prevented an attack, while 35% say that they believe it has - the exact percentage of people who support this program, indicating that support is closely tied to a belief in efficacy. Intelligence agencies have launched a PR blitz in recent days insisting that the data has played a crucial role in stopping a number of terrorist attacks in the United States.
This scepticism extends even to larger internet firms. 58% say that they do not trust large internet firms to protect their privacy, while 61% say that they have little or no control over who can access their personal data. Internet companies have fought back against this however, with Google, Facebook and others attacking the government program and calling on legal changes to allow them to give customers a better sense of when the federal government gains access to the data of their customers.