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Most Americans' Behavior Unchanged After Snowden Revelations, Study Finds


Seems like almost every week there's news about another cool piece of tech that comes with a hidden price tag, your personal data.


It goes to hackers, marketers, data miners and government agencies.


EDWARD SNOWDEN: It's nothing that we ever asked for. It's not what we wanted, and it's something we need to protect against.

BLOCK: That's the former NSA contractor and document leaker Edward Snowden speaking last year at South by Southwest. Snowden joined the crowd through a live web stream that ran through seven proxy servers on its way to the festival in Austin.

GONYEA: That's why the audio sounds a little weird, but Snowden's message was clear. Americans should care more about government surveillance.


SNOWDEN: They're setting fire to the future of the Internet, and the people who are in this room now - you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help us fix this.

BLOCK: Since Snowden famously exposed spying programs in 2013, government surveillance has become common knowledge. It's even spawned some jokes like #nsapickuplines and #nsalovepoems.

GONYEA: Roses are red, violets are blue, your password is 6852.

BLOCK: But, doggerel aside, have the Snowden leaks actually changed the way Americans use their devices?

MARY MADDEN: So among the 87 percent of adults who are aware of the government monitoring programs, 1 in 3 have taken at least one step to hide or shield their information.

GONYEA: That's Mary Madden.

MADDEN: I'm a senior researcher here at the Pew Research Center's Internet science and technology team.

BLOCK: And today, Pew released a study looking at how Americans have altered their behavior since Edward Snowden's revelations.

MADDEN: We found that 17 percent of adults who've heard about the surveillance program say they've changed their privacy settings on social media. Fifteen percent say they've avoided certain apps, and 14 percent say they've spoken more in person instead of communicating online or over the phone.

GONYEA: That doesn't sound super secure. Why aren't people taking advance measures like encryption or proxy servers?

MADDEN: They don't want to appear suspicious in some cases. In other cases, they've told us that they simply don't feel expert enough or don't have the time to research what's available.

GONYEA: Even so, Pew found that Americans have changed their attitudes toward government surveillance post-Snowden.

MADDEN: People are becoming less confident that the monitoring programs are in the public interest.

BLOCK: And you'll find more information about the Pew survey at our blog, npr.org/alltech. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.