Do Millennials Give A Damn About PRISM? Ctd

According to the Urtak survey we ran last week, on a range of questions related to surveillance, it appears millennials do in fact give a damn:

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Translated: 44 percent of polled millennial readers are outraged over the NSA program while only 38 percent of older readers are outraged. There are similar results to the question, “Should PRISM be shut down immediately?” – 43 percent of millennials said yes, compared to only 37 percent of non-millennials. Read all of the results here. Our results – obviously not scientific as to millennials as a whole – are nonetheless backed up the latest CNN poll on Obama. The younger generation appears to be among the angriest about the surveillance state and the president has seen his approval drop like a coastal shelf:

Last month, nearly two-thirds of those in the 18-29 age group gave the president a thumbs up. His approval rating among that bracket fell 17 points in Monday’s poll and now stands at 48%.

One outraged millennial writes:

I do give a damn about PRISM. I’m not as concerned with the government tracking my moves. I get ads related to everything I visit on the web – some helpful, some annoying. I have accounts with sites I use for a day, and then move on. I can deal with that.

What I am most worried about is not the actions of the government, but rather, the cloak of secrecy surrounding it. If the government decides it is in our best interests to hack our computers, that’s fine – just tell me. The PATRIOT Act was conceived before I was of voting age. I have never had a chance to truly “vote” on it. It was done without my consent. Yet it is the millennial age that lives our lives online. Now that I can vote, and now that millions of millennials can now vote, we deserve a say. If the people decide that they are willing to be hacked so that attacks can be prevented, I will live with that. But as government becomes even more secretive, even more of the same old ‘just trust us’ then millennials will start to get frustrated.

Let us have a say.

Another says:

I always imagined that personal information was something you compartmentalized among different places. Your doctor had your medical information, your accountant knew something about your finances, and your friends knew your daily adventures. This seems like a pretty common thing: we disperse information about ourselves in a way that a complete picture can’t be drawn, or at least some sensitive information stays hidden.

This is what is so disturbing about this surveillance program..

It combines what we want to be disparate pieces of information into something that you can know about me without me wanting you to know. The Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out the dangers with metadata being gathered about you. You have reason to worry about the police weaving the threads of your life together.

How does this apply to millennials? Even in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, we still curate what gets shared. We don’t share every thought as a status or upload everything we capture on film. We are still concerned with what people can know about us, even if it’s just to make us seem like the most fun party animal you’ll ever meet.

So it should scare my generation that information that you had the choice to “upload” is no longer under your control. It belongs to our national security. It’s disturbing that the police collect information on me when I do nothing wrong. And it should disturb everyone.


The accusation typically thrown out is that Millennials have a sense of entitlement. When it comes to web services, we certainly do, because so much IS free. Google lets me store 20,000 mp3 files, have a calendar, email account, office documents, and 15 gigs of storage on any computer I log into, AND on my smartphone. The tradeoff is that they get to read my email.

That’s the social (and legal) contract. When I bought my newest smartphone, I made a conscious decision to get an Android (Google) phone over an iPhone (Apple), based on the services provided and their respective track records of privacy. When I install an application on my phone, I read the permissions it requests. I think carefully about what pictures and posts about life I’m giving Facebook, Twitter, etc (not to mention the data going out to friends and family …).

When it comes to my data (phone, web, etc), however, the differences between Google and the Federal Government are enormous and important:

– I can quit Google. I have no opt-out of federal “monitoring”, even if I’ve done nothing wrong.

– Google is not an executive arm of government. If Google mined my data and decided something was bad, they could only bring a civil suit against me. The government, on the other hand, can bring a criminal case against me. I can go to jail based on what the government decides to do with my data.

– Google has to let me know when they chance their privacy policies. The US Government, on the other hand, has made their interpretation of the Patriot Act secret – I have no idea if data collection policies have changed, or really, if I’m breaking the law in any way.

Andrew, for the first time, I want my money back. I’m disappointed in your view of the NSA situation. I understand that you’ve been “monitored” your whole life, and that government supervision is different in Britain, but you’re missing the big picture. The NSA has built one of the largest data centers in the world in Utah, and they’re building another one in Maryland. It’s likely they’re downloading all of the traffic on the Internet, by installing splitters in primary datacenters. This can include phone traffic, since most phone calls are no longer analog, but digital (VoIP).

Apple, Samsung, and HTC smartphones have all had monitoring software installed by default and without notification to the user. The software recorded keyboard input, but could easily have recorded audio and video without the user knowing.

We are well past the point of living in a surveillance state, and with the militarization of police departments and formation of a “Department of Homeland Security,” we are only a tea bag away from becoming a police state.

Previous thoughts from readers here and here.