Who's the face of Big Brother – government or business?

What does the face of Big Brother look like?

More people say it looks like Big Business than it does government, according to a survey by the Center for a Digital Future at the University of Southern California.

The center’s 10th annual study, published June 3, found that 48 percent of Internet users 16 years old and older worry about companies following them online. Only 38 percent had the same fear about government.

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“Many of us are worried that the Big Brother in our lives is actually Big Business,” Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, said in the report’s summary.

“Internet users have major concerns about corporate intrusion – and who can blame them?” Cole said. “Considering the recent revelations about covert surveillance of personal behavior through GPS tracking and other related issues, we believe that user concerns about the involvement – some would say encroachment – of companies into the lives of Internet users represent a significant issue.”

The center’s survey of 1,926 people aged 12 and older examines more than 100 topics related to Internet use, from the percentage of Americans online to whether they trust what they read.
On the matter of trust, government websites did well, although they are slipping a bit. Seventy-nine percent of Internet users in the story said they considered information of government sites to be reliable. That’s down from 82 percent in 2009, but still ahead of how well users trust information from established media websites (75 percent).

Overall, people are circumspect about what they read on the Web, with 40 percent of Internet users saying that most or all of the information on the Web is reliable.

And although people flock to blogs and social media sites, they aren’t kidding themselves about what they find there: Only 15 percent said they considered information posted by individuals to be accurate.

As for social media, the report puts it bluntly: “A majority of Internet users have almost no faith that the information they find on social networking sites is reliable and accurate.”

Among other topics dealt with in the study, 84 percent of Internet users said they had a broadband connection. In the 10 years of the center’s studies, broadband connection have increased by more than 800 percent, the report states.

And people are staunchly opposed to government regulation of the Internet, with 61 percent saying the disagree or strongly disagree with the idea, and only 19 percent saying the government should regulate more than it does now.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Mar 13, 2012

i know nuttin is private anymore in our lives,,,wheres our freedom of speech?our freedom to have our country run the way its supposed to be,,,,the american way.im sorry but when it comes to government,nothing good comes from it,nothing that i have seen so far

Thu, Jun 9, 2011

Well, Gov't Vet, not in the agency I work at. Why don't you become a whistle-blower and stop the illegal actions -- otherwise, you are to blame as well, if they're true. And Shrimper -- you're mistaken. Read the news and you'll find Big Business can do almost all that. And they have a better motive -- greed.

Thu, Jun 9, 2011 Gov't Vet

I've been in Federal IT for over 31 years. Trust me, the "govt" is already listening in, dropping in, gathering, storing, and analyzing data from private citizens and has been for years. You think your emails and cell phone conversations are private? Think again. It doesn't matter that it's against the law.

Thu, Jun 9, 2011 Illinois

With all their lobbyists and political payoffs, "big business" IS the government.

Thu, Jun 9, 2011 Shrimper Maryland

Well, I submit that folks BETTER be way more concerned about BIG GOVERNMENT following them around. Listen folks, who can come in to your home or place of business and DEMAND all sorts of documents and information , TAX YOU, prosecute you, jail you, and all with basic impunity???.... It ain't big business.

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