Poll: On Privacy, IRS and NSA Deemed More Trustworthy Than Facebook and Google


Even in the wake of the NSA data collection scandal, and amidst on-going wariness of the IRS, Americans trust these organizations to protect their privacy and personal information far more than they trust Facebook and Google to do the same.


The latest Reason-Rupe poll surveyed Americans about their level of trust in these groups, as well as cell phone companies and internet service providers. The NSA and IRS fared best, yet only 11 percent of respondents said they trusted them "a lot." Just two percent said they trusted Facebook "a lot."

Over six in 10 Americans, 61 percent, say they do not trust Facebook "at all" to protect their privacy and another 15 percent say they only trust Facebook "a little." Google has similar trust problems with 48 percent saying they do not trust the company to protect their privacy at all and 19 percent say they trust Google a little.

For comparison, 45 percent of Americans say they do not trust the IRS to protect their privacy at all and 18 percent trust the IRS a little. Four in 10 Americans do not trust the NSA to protect their privacy and 19 percent trust the agency a little.

Despite reports detailing NSA surveillance of the phone records of ordinary Americans and news that intelligence agencies have broken the encryption codes that protect internet users' private information, about a third of Americans trust their cellular phone providers and internet service providers to protect their privacy at least somewhat, 32 and 29 percent, respectively.


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.

NEXT: FAA Recommends Passengers Should Be Allowed To Use "Most" Devices During Takeoff and Landing

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Of course, I can choose not to give any information to Facebook.

  2. I wish they would stop running these comparisons. I don’t have to give Facebook or Google a damned thing if I don’t want to. The NSA and IRS however don’t give me a choice. The first two are in no way analogous to the second two. What is with the obsession with this idiotic comparison?

    1. No shit – people who use Google and Facebook are looking for the opposite of privacy. Who puts up an electronic billboard about themselves and thinks it’s private?

      I don’t use Facebook or Google and if I had a choice, I would not associate with the IRS or NSA.

    2. I too am skeptical that Google or Facebook can protect my privacy. Not because I think they would use it for nefarious purposes, but because I know for a fact they can bullied into turning it over to the government.

  3. That is disappointing; almost as bad as the news that 43% of the population still thinks ‘dreamy’ is sufficient for the presidency.

  4. Capitalism has a marketing issue.

  5. All this poll proves is that people are stupid, and Reason hates alt-text (and by extension, its commenters).

  6. I think a lot of this is because Facebook & Google’s activities are public. I’m sure if Google and Facebook could keep their activities classified, they would have a much better reputation than they do now.

    1. That’s part of it, but clearly the anti-corporate attitudes are at play here. Never mind that it was government entities (NSA) that forced them to share info.

      And who the fuck trusts the IRS? 64% of people are incredibly stupid. And this just after the outing of Lerner and Co.’s use of that organization to squash groups because they were vocal and organized in their dislike of the currently sitting President’s agenda? What would the percentage have been two years ago? 90%?

      1. Lois Lerner, the woman who demands immunity for not doing anything wrong.

  7. Wait, what? I can refuse to do business with two of the four, and those same two can’t take my stuff, lock me up, or do whatever the fuck they want to because they are now above the law and accountability.

    People are fucking insane.


    I guess I’m confused as to what is meant by privacy. Selling/sharing the information I’ve submitted? Gathering information I have not submitted? I guess I don’t trust Google to keep my data sacred, but that’s expected. I am more trusting of Google to say “no” to someone than I am any government branch saying no to another govt agency. Maybe there would be some inter-agency rivalry to protect me, but I’m guessing if the NSA or FBI wants to know what I told the IRS on my last return, they won’t have any problems.

    1. That is exactly right. Whatever you want to call it, someone’s ability or willingness to keep information I give them secret is not the same thing as the likelihood someone else will just steal my information.

      The question asked is itself ridiculous. I don’t trust or distrust the NSA at all because they shouldn’t have any of my information.

    2. I’m guessing if the NSA or FBI wants to know what I told the IRS on my last return, they won’t have any problems

      Yes, but the key is that you will never know it happened. Everybody knows that Google and Facebook sell and share information with partners. But government activities are in secret, so your average citizen has absolutely no idea what is happening with their information, or even what is being collected. Out of sight, out of mind.

  9. I think the poll is absolutely correct. The IRS and NSA have the capability and incentive to protect my privacy, and are in a much better position to do so than the others.

    After all, haven’t they been protecting Jimmy Hoffa’s privacy since 1975?

  10. Reason did a poll?

  11. Despite reports detailing NSA surveillance of the phone records of ordinary Americans and news that intelligence agencies have broken the encryption codes that protect internet users’ private information…

    …we have learned that there are an alarming number of earnest retards out there.

    1. Amazing how often that applies.

  12. The major concern is not that information is collected or shared. It the motivation of those that use the information. Facebook and Google are sharing information for marketing purposes. While I share as little as possible with them, I’m not really concerned about targeted advertising directed to me. I have strong enough willpower to say no thanks. For the Feds, they say its about protecting us from terrorism but one has to be suspicious of such claims, especially in light of recent IRS revelations.

    I suspect that NSA acquired information was used against John Roberts.

  13. How long until someone posts that this poll means that Reason supports the NSA and IRS?

  14. Yeah, because companies selling information that I willingly give them is exactly like a secret government agency tracking my every move.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.