Do you trust the government to use private information responsibly?

The U.S. House passed a cybersecurity bill last week that encourages private companies and the government to share information gathered on the Internet. The stated purpose is to prevent attacks on the Internet and computer-dependent facilities, but critics warn that the bill will erode personal privacy. Today’s Question: Do you trust the government to use private information responsibly?

  • Roselle P

    No. Plain and simple, NO. If I can’t even trust myself to keep private information to myself, I can’t trust my government to do the same either. It’s just all too tempting. I can keep my OWN private information private, it’s just other people’s private information that I can’t keep private to myself.

    Big FAT NO.

  • Kurt

    Fascinating question. As a conservative, I don’t trust the government to do anything particularly well. Liberals, on the other hand, practically worship government. Can’t wait for the answers on this one.

  • Larry


    This has been another simple answer to a silly question.

  • Bob

    Government no darn good. The tinfoil on my head keeps them from reading my brain transmissions. I’ve also found that the tinfoil covering my head serves as as a signal boost in my communications to the mother-ship. It’s only when I’m in my bunker that I have issues with connectivity.

    Keystroke monitoring software will be my next project. ;^)

  • Gary F

    No. No, and No.

  • Rich

    About as much as I trust private corporations to deal with its data collection.

  • reggie

    There are two problematic words in this question, but government is not one of them. We are, sadly, living in an age where one “trusts” any institution at one’s peril. But the bigger worry is that there is no longer any such thing as “private” information. That train has left the station.

    Government may be clumsy and make mistakes, but unlike the paranoid, I don’t really worry about it. Business, on the other hand, is a much more dangerous (mis)user of information. Just look at the cookies on your computer.

  • Steve the Cynic

    This is a rhetorical question, right?

  • jon

    Asking if some one trusts the government with their information is bound to result in the answer “No.”

    BUT, then we give them tax forms with all of our finical information on them, a lot of our medical history ends up with the government, we pay them to protect us by keeping a military around, and police, and fire departments. Clearly we have to trust the government, but we don’t like to admit it.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Kurt writes, “As a conservative, I don’t trust the government to do anything particularly well,” and then goes on to accuse liberals of worshiping government. That’s precisely the trouble with ideologies. They inhibit critical thinking. An ideologue says, “I’m a [name of ideology], therefore I believe [doctrine], in contrast to those [name of opposite ideology] miscreants who believe [caricature of opposite doctrine].” How much better it would be if people would say, “After some open minded research, I believe [reasoned conclusion].” (Then you could add, “…in contrast to those ideologues who believe [caricature of both/all doctrinaire opinions].”)

  • Pat

    Any new law that adds to the power of business or the government to monitor our behaviors is a bad, bad idea. Further, the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security needs to be recalled. It is the most harmful attack on civil liberties that this nation has seen since World War Two. Our warriors don’t fight battles overseas so that the American people can be spied upon or imprisoned at home.

  • Andrea Peel

    As a “liberal” – whatever the hell that means to stereotyping idiots, no..I don’t ‘trust’ private OR government entities to use my personal data in a legal, ethical way. To many stories of data being lost and abused. I trust banks even less.

  • Philip

    Hmm, time to go down memory lane…

    May 3, 2009 – the burglary at a VA employee’s Maryland home, where a laptop was stolen containing sensitive information of 26.5 million veterans and military personnel.

    I trust the government to safeguard my personal information like I trust Edward Scissorhands to do a hernia check.

  • Craig Huber

    I don’t really trust anyone with my “private” information, but to be a part of our present society, I occasionally have to divulge a little of it.

    So, when can I expect the other half of the question? You know: “Do you trust private companies to use private information responsibly?”

  • Xopher

    Hell no.

  • Lance

    According to the article, “The White House, along with a coalition of liberal and conservative groups and some lawmakers, strongly opposed the measure, complaining that Americans’ privacy could be violated.”

    Unfathomably, I find myself in agreement with the official position of the White House.

  • Jim G

    No. Corporations sharing personal information with the government will not help prevent attacks on the internet or computer-dependent facilities. Private information needs to be private property protected by trespass law. When our private information is a commodity being bought, sold, and shared; how are we to protect ourselves from those who will abuse this information for their own NEFARIOUS purposes? Government agency or corporation, the damage to our privacy is the same. Just because today’s technology allows the gleaning, and harvesting of personal data from the internet doesn’t mean we should LEGALIZE it. The actions of this bill passed by the House of Representatives do not support the stated purpose, so look for a RED HERRING. The real purpose to the law is to make WILD WEST INTERNET practices legal.

  • Ron

    Certainly much, much more than I trust private businesses, not only in terms of security but also actual uses for information.

  • Luke Van Santen

    Another “librul” here – no, I don’t fully trust the government with my data. I wish they didn’t have to have ANY, but that is not realistic.

    That said, I trust few, if any, non-public entities with my data. They seem to be too “wild & free” with it.

    Perhaps there should be reporting requirements for each time my data gets shared / sold / transferred / accessed, that both government AND corporations / non-public entities are compelled to comply with? Or a way for me to receive royalties when my data is used / sold / shared?

  • JasonB

    Yes and no.

    I see the protection of my privacy as being analogous to the protection of the environment. We have laws protecting our country’s natural beauty as well as those that allow for the exploitation of its natural resources. Because my personal information has exploitable value I believe it would be treated like a natural resource, either protected from or sold to the big money interests.

  • Bruce

    My best answer would be no.

  • georges

    Our top employee (and titular head of the Government), Barack Obama, is out amongst the People, spreading a new dose of hope-ium.

    It seems that the dose of hope-ium that he distributed so widely, and which infected so many, in 2008, has worn off.

    He’ll need a more virulent strain, this time.

    Fortunately, disbelieving the Government (and the Statists who operate it) is back in vogue.

  • Ann

    Information can get hacked. It can also be misused. These things have happened in the past, So it is not safe, but it seems that we have little control over giving out our information these days. Other countries have a separate ID number so that they don’t have to use their social security type numbers. The US can’t even get caught up to other countries in getting us this type of number.

  • Benjamin Joseph Miller

    Trusting the United States government is like trusting a burglar with the keys to your house; of course I do not trust Uncle Sam with my personal data. Ever hear of “The Ministry of Thought”? Your computer is more than a simple box containing your personal information, it is an extension of your person; the very makeup of your being. It is a digital approximation of oneself and the “internet” is the means for your virtual self to transverse the walls of your digital home.

    Your thoughts, your ideas, your “intellectual property”, corporate America guards their secrets with zeal, and so does the federal government. Why should “we the people” expect any less security for ourselves? CISPA is a travesty, an affront to the people of this nation, and move toward totalitarianism.

    Shame on congress for, yet again, another betrayal of the American people, and shame on all of us that seem to be so caught up in rhetoric of partisan politics that we can’t see that we are selling out the ideals that this nation was founded on. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; these are not values that we can afford to throw away when the task of at hand becomes difficult.

  • Kurt

    @ Steve

    Or……………like yourself, we could take the easy way out. Proclaim ourselves above ideology (even though we are a stark raving ideologue) and, from our perch critique and psychoanalyse the comments of others while holding ourselves above reproach. In Steve’s world, any opinion in contradiction his own is apriori “extremist”. Hmmm.

    P.S. You never did answer David’s question about how you find so much time to monitor this site. I was curious myself.

  • Steve the Cynic


    Only if you consider skeptical, evidence-based pragmatism an ideology am I an ideologue, but that’s not the usual meaning of that English word. You also seem to be confused about what a priori means. You’re the one who wrote, “As a conservative, I….” implying that your status as a conservative is prior to the opinion you hold on this particular question.

  • Kurt


    Skeptical, evidence -based pragmatism? LOL!

    Remember our Moose/Global Warming discussion. You accused me of getting my information from a right-wing blog. Oops. Reliable left-of-center(if thats not an oxymoron) source. And because my opininion differed from yours-I must not know anything about science. Oops. Have a degree and worked in that field. And your credentials? (insert crickets). Then you threw out that VT was colder than MN. I looked it up. You may have been right, but, as it happened, you weren’t. Oops. So which one of us is the skeptical evidence-based pragmatist, and which is the ideologue?

  • Mark in Freeborn

    I think the key word here is “use.” When any entity – government or otherwise – “uses” your private information, it’s always for their purposes, and not necessarily with your best interests in mind. Obviously, the government already has a lot of our private information, but when they decide to “use” it, I seriously doubt it’s for a purpose that’s intended to improve my life.

  • Steve the Cynic

    At least I’m open to new information, Kurt (and Vermont is still snowier than Minnesota). Moose populations notwithstanding, your climate change denialism is hardly non-ideological. If I remember correctly, you were arguing that the idea global warming is caused by human activity is a liberal plot to expand the role of government and take away our rights. That’s the way ideologues look at the evidence and make it fit the idology. Like when the bubble burst in 2008, rational folks quickly realized that excessive deregulation of the banking system probably had something to do with it. Ideologues on the right, holding the article of faith that the Free Market is always good, quickly rallied to find another explanation and concluded that no, it was due to deregulation not going far enough in the mortgage market.

    To the question for today (yesterday actually), I don’t trust the government to use my private information correctly, but I trust business interests even less. At least the government is nominally accountable to me at the voting booth. The idea that businesses and government would be colluding as a consequence of this legislation gives me pause.

  • David Poretti

    Want a taste of the good life?

    Spend internet time checking out exotic cars, expensive real estate, and serious bling.

    Before long, you will have a “high roller” profile, and your status as a prospective client will improve with the types of businesses you didn’t even know existed. Trust it or not, like it or not – you and information about you are a commodity, traded on the free market by private enterprise, not-for-profit organizations and government(s).

  • Kurt


    Wow. I hope you have me confused with somene else because thats not even close. Dare I say that you seem to have transposed my thoughts on the matter into a ……what was that……..yes, a “caricature of opposite doctrine”. The easier to dismiss them I suppose.

    In any event, I am happy to hear that you are open to new information and will look for evidence of such in future posts.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I went and looked at the archive of that discussion, Kurt. Apparently that was someone else, who made that allegation. (You right-wingers all tend to sound alike, about as much as left-wingers do.) However, you did assert your belief that the scientific consensus about climate change was a “conspiracy” by fame-seeking scientists, and you did seem to deny that that scenario was less likely than my suspicion that the fossil fuel industry was behind the “research” questioning anthropogenic climate change. That is a clear example of the kind of make-the-evidence-fit-the-doctrine thinking I’m talking about. The phraseology of your statement that I called attention to (“As a conservative, I don’t trust the government to do anything particularly well.”) betrays your ideological attitude. Had you said, “I don’t trust the government to do anything particularly well, which is why I call myself a conservative,” I could respect that.

    I’m skeptical of all ideological doctrines and conventional wisdom, which is why I call myself a “cynic” in the classical sense.

  • Kurt

    One can refer to themselves anyway they want I suppose. Conservative, liberal, cynic but, in the end, where you sit is where you stand. And so Fox can say we’re “fair and balanced” and MPR can say “no rant, no slant” and you can say I am unincumbered by ideology, but I’d say you all proteteth too mucheth.

  • Steve the Cynic

    If you’re going to say that words mean whatever you say they mean, I’ll not waste my time trying to dialog with you.

  • Kurt

    Huh? No, I think its rather clear that what I am saying Steve, is that one can label themselves as anything they choose in an effort to appear above the fray but that is seldom a successful ploy. The body of discourse speaks to that. So, most people regard Fox as having a conservative bias and MPR as having a liberal one. You, on the other hand, are perceived as a liberal as well. David was stunned and stung by your criticism as it was so out of character for you. He clearly regarded you as a kindred spirit.

  • Steve the Cynic

    David’s mistake was assuming that because I agreed with him on some issues I must share his ideology. Your mistake, Kurt, is assuming that because I often disagree with you, I must hold an ideology opposite yours. This would be merely an interesting academic discussion, except that ideological tribalism is tearing the country apart. The Republican presidential candidates have been trying to outdo one another in showing how loyal they are to a conservative ideology, and lots of Democrats are disappointed that Obama didn’t turn out to be the ideological liberal they assumed he’d be (despite his campaign rhetoric). Just think how much better American politics would be if candidates were trying to outdo one another in having good ideas, regardless of the labels, instead of trying to pander to their bases.