The revelations of widespread government surveillance by NSA contractor Edward Snowden may have dominated public discussion, but they didn't have much impact on how Americans actually use digital technology. That's the conclusion of a new Pew study based on a survey of 475 U.S. adults, polled about their use of technologies including mobile devices, social media, and email, among other channels.
There is no question that most Americans have heard about government surveillance in the wake of Snowden’s leak of secret documents: 87% of respondents said they have heard “a lot” or “a little” about the surveillance, and only 6% said they have heard “nothing at all,” about them (the elusive “living under a rock” demo).
However, just 39% said they are concerned about monitoring of search engines, 38% said the same for email, 37% were concerned about monitoring of cell phones, and 31% were worried about monitoring of social media apps.
Similarly, just 34% of Americans who said they were aware of the surveillance reports have taken any steps to shield themselves from surveillance by the government, including 17% (of the group who were aware of surveillance) who have changed their privacy settings on social media; 15% who said they use social media less often; 15% who have avoided using certain apps, and 13% who have uninstalled apps; 14% who said they speak more in person instead of communicating online or by phone; and 13% who avoid using certain terms in online communications.
In addition, 18% have changed the way they use email, 17% changed their use of search engines, and 13% have changed the way they use text messages.
Not surprisingly, people who said they knew “a lot” about the government surveillance (31%) and younger adults under age 50 were more likely to have changed at least on of these behaviors (40% versus 27%).