On Balance, Public Choose Security over Privacy

June 12, 2013, 9:37 AM GMT+0

More than twice as many UK adults support prioritising security over privacy in public policy – but the young, Labour and Lib Dem voters are not so sure

Following a leak last week which revealed that America’s National Security Agency had accessed emails, web chats, records on telephone data and other communications from the world’s largest technology companies via a programme called Prism, US President Barack Obama defended his actions: “You can't have 100% security, and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience”, he said, “we're going to have to make some choices.” When it became clear that British information had also been accessed, Boris Johnson weighed-in: "There is a trade-off between freedom and security, as Barack Obama rightly says; between the citizen’s right to total internet privacy, and the duty of the state to protect us all from harm."

New YouGov research for the Sun today reveals that the British public are more in favour of choosing privacy over security: 42% say “security forces should be given more investigative powers to combat terrorism, even if this means the privacy or human rights of ordinary people suffers”, while only two in ten (19%) say “More should be done to protect the privacy and human rights of ordinary people, even if this puts some limits on what the security forces can do when combatting terrorism.”

There is a clear partisan and age divide on the issue however. Conservative and UKIP voters lean on the security side of the argument by majorities (54% and 60%, respectively) yet only around a third of Labour and Lib Dem supporters do the same (36% and 30%, respectively).

And while on average 44% of those over 25 years old weigh security more heavily than privacy, only 25% of 18-24 year olds agree with them.

On Monday the Guardian announced the identity of the man responsible for leaking information on the Prism programme. He is a 29 year-old ex-CIA technical assistant, Edward Snowden.

See the full poll results

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