Why don’t Americans care about privacy?

Some do, but not most, and not the people they elect to public office.

Tim Cook, the CEO at Apple, has been virtually the lone voice calling for action on privacy.(2)

Americans don’t like mudslinging in political campaigns. Europeans don’t have to deal with it due to their privacy and libel laws. But then, taking explicit photos of anyone and posting them without consent is a serious offense in Europe. Many Americans seem willing to compromise privacy for free smut.

Like our attitudes toward guns, this is something that separates America from the rest of the world. Other developed countries around the globe, from Germany to Singapore, have strong privacy laws. The US doesn’t.

The Pew Foundation reported in March that 61% of Americans are concerned that social media companies and government would not protect their private information.(1) However, that doesn’t mean they are doing anything to protect themselves. And conversely, 39% aren’t concerned. What are they thinking?

Years ago, in a survey for an ISP, I asked American consumers how they felt about parental controls on what children could view online. Most said the controls were very important. However, I then asked how much time they spent monitoring what their children did online, and most said none. Americans know what they should be doing but don’t do it.

Social media users are more trusting, as odd as that sounds, or at least they have been in the past and some still are. Again from Pew,

Our research has not established a causal relationship between people’s use of social media and their well-being. But in a 2011 report, we noted modest associations between people’s social media use and higher levels of trust, larger numbers of close friends, greater amounts of social support and higher levels of civic participation.

Perhaps the events of the last two years and the rise of Fake Facts has dented that trust, perhaps not for many Americans.


  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/27/americans-complicated-feelings-about-social-media-in-an-era-of-privacy-concerns/
  2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/apple-ceo-tim-cook-calls-for-comprehensive-u-s-privacy-law-1540375675?mod=djemalertNEWS

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