1 in 4 would allow government access to loyalty card data

WM Circle Logo

By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 27, 2005

A recent survey of US citizens reveals a population torn between its desire to be patriotic and its concern that government surveillance carries the potential for misuse: one in four would allow the government access to their grocery loyalty card data.

The survey, The Big Brother Project, conducted by graduate students at Boston University, investigated personal privacy in an era of increasing government surveillance.

Proudly patriotic
With tensions mounting surrounding the renewal of provisions of the Patriot Act, liberal voices would have people believe that Americans resent the act and the surveillance it allows, while conservative voices would have people believe that the powers granted investigators under the Patriot Act would only ever be used against real terrorists in the fight against terrorism.

Americans, however, see things differently from both sides. While only 37% of Americans believe the Patriot Act allows the government to invade their privacy, just 16% of Americans believe that surveillance is used exclusively for national security.

"Nothing to fear"
Over half (56%) of respondents agree that "people who obey the law have nothing to fear from government surveillance." Even more people, 78%, disagree that their right to privacy is "more important than national security concerns".

However, when presented with specific surveillance activities, citizen willingness diminishes. Only 20% of Americans think the government should have access to their e-mail records and just 16% believe surveillance of cell phone conversations is appropriate. Yet a slim majority believes both activities are being done regularly.

Watching card data
Commercial activity is also off-limits, according to most Americans. But approximately one-quarter of Americans said they are willing to grant the government permission to view their credit card records or grocery store loyalty card records.

Here again, despite low support for it, two-thirds of citizens believe the government accesses credit card transaction data regularly. But more chillingly, nearly half (47%) of Americans believe the government has accessed at least some of their personal records before.

The project was designed by students under the supervision of Professor James McQuivey.

More Info: