More Americans Trust IRS Than Facebook with Privacy: Reason-Rupe Poll September 2013

"More people trust the IRS than they did Facebook for protecting their privacy," says Reason Foundation polling director Emily Ekins.

Ekins sat down with Reason TV's Paul Detrick to discuss this interesting finding as well as others that were found in the Reason-Rupe poll for September 2013. The poll in part took a look at how Americans felt about privacy and National Security Agency surveillance.

A question was included in the poll to see whom Americans trusted more with their privacy: Facebook, the Internal Revenue Service, Google or the NSA. The IRS came in at 33 percent; Facebook at 11 percent. Ekins says the reasoning may have to do with the amount of private information Americans upload to the social networking site.

With revelations in the Guardian, the Washington Post and other news publications about the NSA collecting phone data and internet records, the poll also asked whether people thought of the surveillance as primarily fighting terrorism or as a violation privacy. A majority of Americans at 55 percent saw it as a violation of privacy, which is in line with other polls that have asked Americans about the NSA's surveillance. Ekins says that independents, and particularly independents who lean Republican, were the most likely to say that the surveillance was a violation of privacy.

"And this is something that we often find in our polls, that a lot of libertarians are found in the group that identifies as independent, but they lean Republican," says Ekins. "But to that point, a lot of civil libertarians are found in the independent group, but they lean left.

For full poll results, check out

Approximately 4:23 minutes long.

Produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Zach Weissmueller and Alex Manning.

Downloadable versions of the video are below. Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube page to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    All male ReasonTV staffers get a turn at interviewing Emily. Detrick blew it. A button down collar? No game whatsoever.

  • Paul.||

    "A turn at interviewing".

    Is that a euphemism?

  • ||

    ReasonTV has a casting couch, Paul, and all female employees have to...uh...ride it. It's one of Nick's "hard and fast" rules.

  • SugarFree||

    I find this comment othering and sexist and feel very unsafe in this forum.

  • ||

    That was the point. Now beat it!

  • Paul.||

    Video: More Americans Trust IRS Than Facebook with Privacy - Reason-Rupe Poll September 2013

    We know... we so, so know. How many Americans express shock and outrage when they find out the IRS abused their data (aside from the 22 of us here), then compare that to how much hay NPR makes when someone got digitally outed on Facebook because all of their searches were for gay porn.

  • Jordan||

    I can choose not to interact with Facebook if I don't trust them. The IRS, not so much.

  • Floridian||

    Why? The IRS is good and noble because they don't have an interest other than doing their job. FB is bad because they only want profits.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Great idea! Taxbook. Just like Facebook, but run by the IRS.

  • Almanian!||

    Great idea?

    Or - greatest idea, EVER?

  • ||

    So people trust a government agency that forces you to give them a substantial portion of your income and was caught harassing groups of certain political persuasions more than an idiotic social media giant that they give their info to voluntarily and can stop using the instant they want to. Sigh.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    The American public, letting me down again and again.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I am guessing their answers were based on the idea of who they trust with their privacy in terms of keeping it private. I actually do bet that the IRS is more likely to keep my information private than Facebook. But as you note a different, and important, question is who should people be more worried about in terms of possessing their information? The answer there has to be the IRS since 1. they can compel your information while you can choose to ignore Facebook and 2. they are part of the state and the coercive resources it possesses while Facebook has none.

  • ||

    Data control at FB is fairly tight. They've had miss-steps, and some of their privacy control changes have been less than ideal, but they have quite a bit to lose if they fubar privacy. I believe they have a policy of firing people who access user data without a very specific reason to. We've seen with other govt agencies that data control is fairly lax (not sure about the IRS specifically) and that people will stalk the objects of their affection using the data at hand.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I was thinking more of intentional sharing of data to third party businesses. Also, I would not put it past many poll respondents if they simply were thinking of the fact that people put personal stuff on Facebook and then other people see it, which is a silly way to understand the question, but there are some silly people.

  • Paul.||

    They don't care about privacy! And they vote!

  • Jayce||

    The problem is really in the question. As is the case in pretty much every silly poll that is constantly taken to distract people from the crappy reality.

    Example: Would you rather be forced to eat turd sandwiches once a day for life, or be eaten alive by a swarm of rats? Both are really, really awful, but I'm guessing I could get used to turd sandwiches, but death is permanent. You can't say that I like turd sandwiches based on that choice, though.

    South Park did an episode some years back on this very thing.

    I'm pretty sure most people don't trust either organization to do more than be utter bastards, but if they're given an either/or question, they'll pick which one they think sucks slightly less. Given the topic, the IRS does manage to keep things secret slightly more than facebook.

    Unless, of course, your ex works for the IRS. In which case you'll be screwed on facebook, too.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    No more pole dancing!

  • Sevo||

    Not such bad news; maybe folks are (finally) figuring out that facebook really isn't the little chatroom with four of five of you buddies.

  • Paul.||

    The subtext is they're outraged about it, that doesn't mean they're not putting up their drunk pics and wall posts.

  • Sevo||

    Yep, that ol' "responsibility" thing.
    If you don't like the hangover, sooner or later you gotta stop getting drunk.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    How about Apple. Not the company, and not the hardware, but the procedure. A decent Wired article. Strange that Wired wrote something this good.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Of course i refer to the privacy FROM government.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Interesting and insightful. Someone must have uploaded it by mistake.

    As it turns out, the fifth isn't nearly as useful when they ignore the fourth.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Guys, I have something to tell you. Lately there has been a deluge of Emily posts. The reason why is that Emily successfully staged a coup at Reason. She incapacitated Welch with a poison champagne cocktail and seduced Nick and left him tied to the bed.

    After that, the rest of the Reason staff swore their allegiance to Ekins.

  • ||

    Sounds pretty good to me. Where do I sign up?

  • Irish||

    Based on this video, Ekins even seems to have some kind of strange jacket. Apparently that's a sort of status symbol around the Reason offices, used to mark she who must be obeyed.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    The hand that holds the jacket rules the world.

  • John||

    I am definitely in the Emily camp.

  • Steve G||

    Eh, the deluge of Emily the past few days is feeling very monogamous. I'm now looking for my Tracy O fling.

  • Steve G||

    Eh, the deluge of Emily the past few days is feeling very monogamous. I'm now looking for my Tracy O fling.

  • Steve G||

    was wondering when the squirrels would strike me for the first time...

  • Killazontherun||

    KMW is the real power behind Ekins. She orchestrated the entire thing from the beginning. EE just happened to be the perfect fit for the assignment to see it carried through.

  • ||

    Emily, I am your slave.

  • bassjoe||

    Well, say what you will about the IRS, it IS accountable to Congress and, through Congress, the voting public. (Yes, I know, that doesn't mean much these days.)

    Facebook, not so much. It's accountable to its shareholders and the occasional judge kvetching about its policies.

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