When it comes to surveillance and privacy, individual views can vary drastically. While some may see surveillance as a violation of privacy, others may see it as a necessity in terms of safety. Then there are individuals who fall somewhere in between on the spectrum, basing their views on circumstance and perceived benefit.
According a recent Pew Research Center study, which surveyed 461 adult participants, plus nine online focus groups of 80 participants, it seems that most Americans would sacrifice their privacy in certain situations based on whether the outcome would be advantageous to them.
The participants were given proposed scenarios where some sort of surveillance or privacy was pushed for a supposed benefit. For example, one scenario posed was that of workplace surveillance. After a string of workplace thefts, the business was to install security cameras with facial recognition technology to identify the thieves, as well as use footage to measure employee attendance and performance. A majority of the participants found this acceptable (54%), some disagreed (24%), and others said ‘it depends’ (21%).
Another scenario was related to loyalty cards for retail stores. These cards would track purchases for special discounts. Almost half of the participants found it acceptable (47%) while almost a third found it unacceptable (32%). When it came to a “smart thermostat” that would monitor movements within the home, most participants found it unacceptable (55%) than acceptable (27%).
As you can tell, the less personal the surveillance, the more acceptable it seems to be perceived. However, most are still wary about disclosing personal information, and even more concerned about what happens to their information thereafter. The threat of spam, targeted ads, and the potential for data breaches, as we have seen lately, makes most hesitant to let their guard down.
All in all, the consensus when it comes to surveillance and privacy matters is “it depends.” Based on an individual’s trust of the company or business and his/her perception of risk and benefit, the person will decide whether or not it’s worth it. This type of conditional acceptance shows that it can be hard to predict whether certain surveillance measures will be tolerated.
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