People don’t trust the federal government to protect their privacy, according to a recent survey. As if anyone is actually surprised by the results.
The Ponemon Institute’s annual survey of privacy trust of federal government agencies showed that the Department of Homeland Security, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency are the federal government’s least trusted agencies, at least for protecting the privacy of individuals’ sensitive personal information.
The most trusted agency for individual privacy was the United States Postal Service. Not that that means all that much, since they have so little actual private information on people.
The think tank first studied the issue of privacy trust in government three years ago (PDF) and the government had much more trust then.
After last year’s massive breach of more than 27 million military personnel’s data, furthermore, the Veterans Administration fell from a top-five ranking in 2006 to just outside the bottom five in the 2007 Ponemon study.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ office also was among the least trusted of the 74 federal entities included in the poll.
“There’s a clear correlation between bad publicity and poor privacy trust performance,” survey author Larry Ponemon said. Previous studies “lacked a big headline negative event,” whereas this time, there were several.
“Initiating more transparent operations and communications with the public is often the first step toward repairing damaged trust, but for obvious reasons, those are not options that agencies like the CIA or NSA can take,” Ponemon said. The confidential nature of the agencies’ operations “will always carry a certain cloud of mistrust with some.”
Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the study “rightly gives these agencies rock-bottom privacy trust scores.” “Some politicians may believe they can make political gains by going along with the president’s anti-terrorism policies that strip away Americans’ privacy rights,” she said. But the survey makes clear that Americans do not think the entities can be trusted to protect their rights, she said. — National Journal’s Technology Daily
Unfortunately, the 2007 survey results aren’t available online yet, at least not for free. Even so, this is very good news. It means people are finally beginning to understand that government isn’t here to protect their privacy or their rights, but to steal the fruits of their labor and rule them with an iron fist.