NSA Internet Data Collection Goes Too Far, Public Says in Pew Survey

Internet data collection by the National Security Administration goes too far, a Pew survey found, and 56% of those surveyed said the federal courts fail to provide adequate limits on the program.

Government Using Data for Other Purposes, Say 70% of those Polled

Not only did a majority of those surveyed in a Pew Research national survey this month say government controls on the program were weak, fully 70% said they thought the government was using the data for more than just anti-terrorism efforts. 

In a stunning display of cognitive dissonance, more people surveyed actually approve of the program than disapprove. 50% of those surveyed said they approve of the program overall, with 44% saying they disapprove, and 6% saying they didn't know.

The survey of 1,480 adults conducted July 17 to July 21 further found 63% of those surveyed think the government is collecting more than just metadata. 27% said they believed the government has listened to or read their phone calls and emails.

Support Holds Up Even for Those who Think their Data has been Accessed

Many of those surveyed shared rather complex views about anti-terrorism efforts, and one of them is that a large contingent approved of the overall program even if they thought the government was collecting more than just metadata about them.

Among those who said they believed the government was reading or listening to their own communications, 40% still approved of the program. 58% said they disapproved. These complex views extend to other groups, like those who believe the government is using data for purposes other than anti-terrorism. 43% of this group approve of the government's program overall.

Conversely, of the 22% of respondents that said they thought the data was only being used to investigate terrorism, 71% approved of the overall program, and 23% disapproved.

News of the widespread data collection broke in early June when leaked documents from the NSA showed the enormous sway given to the government to tap data on social and Internet search sites. Because the program is classified, the government, and President Obama have been less than forthcoming about the actual capabilities of the data collection. 

Internet firms have to comply with government subpoenas, of course, but it's not yet clear how often those are issued for the data being collected, for example. Tell us in the comments if you agree with the survey and if you approve of NSA data collection and for what purposes.