By Mariah McCloskey
Does the American public really care when hackers give us information on a politician or head of an industry? No. The Pew Research Center found that one in every ten Americans do not care about politics or what happens in their government on a national level. A hacker releasing information will turn some heads for a brief amount of time, but in the long term, it will not have a large effect on the public’s views.
Currently 10 percent of the American population can be categorized as a ‘bystander’, or a person with a lack of political engagement. Of these bystanders, 73 percent say they have no interest in government and politics. Instead they are often interested in celebrities and entertainment.
When Edward Snowden leaked classified information from the National Security Agency without prior authorization in 2013, the world was amazed and terrified. But today, if you were to walk out onto the street and ask a random passerby, very few would react in the same manner.
In 2014, the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Ipsos found that 25 percent of the United States did not know who Snowden is. Less than a year after his whistleblowing and a quarter of the American public still does not know who he is. In fact, most forgot all about him when the next big story showed up on their television screens.
This is because a large number of Americans are remarkably unaware of political matters that they cannot grasp or have no effect on them. According to the Pew Research Center, 82 percent of people think it’s acceptable “for the American government to monitor communications from individuals suspected of terrorist activities,” and 40 percent think it’s acceptable for the government to monitor general communications from American citizens.
Thanks to Snowden we all know that the American government, specifically the NSA and FBI, read our emails, listen to our calls, and know what we look at online.
The American public is terrified of violent international non-state actors, but very few seem to care about domestic hackers that access government databases to present the public with information and educate themselves.
The government recruits skilled “white hat” hackers to test their systems and defend against “black hat” hackers – “good” and “bad” hackers, respectively. Failure to differentiate the between good and the bad undermines U.S. national security by sidelining many of the individuals best able to confront malicious nation-state actors.
People simply do not care about whether or not there are people who are hacking domestically to inform the general populous, because they believe it has no effect on them or they have no interest in it.
If we take Hillary Clinton’s emails, for example, the leaks have been successful in using the scandal to lower her approval ratings. However, voters in general do not care about them. The truth is, even if voters believe that Clinton did something wrong with her emails, the majority of them will still vote for her. Every second spent talking about emails is a win for Democrats, because they will be talking about something that the broader electorate does not care about.
The people of the U.S. are very self-interested; if it does not affect them directly, then it is does not concern them. In turn, hackers have no effect on the views of the American public because the majority of the public does not even acknowledge that these domestic hackers have done anything that pertains to them and their lives.