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December 25, 2013

Americans uneasy about surveillance but often use snooping tools

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Bob Moses, 50, an information technology worker for the AFL-CIO, said he would like more anonymity when he shops online, but he understands that Google and others offer their services without charge and need a way to make money.

"For that, I give up some of my rights," Moses said. "It's a trade-off I accept, at least right now." He's similarly sanguine about the government's tracking. "It's not the details that the NSA is harvesting, but it's the relationships," he said. "If you've got something to hide, then you ought to be worried about it."

Moses appreciates technology's capacity to keep his family safe. When his children were younger, he demanded to be their friends on Facebook so he could monitor their activity. He recently helped a colleague buy a "granny-cam" for the home of her elderly mother, who struggles with dementia. And he used an AT&T service called "FamilyMap" to track the movements of his children, ages 17 and 22 — stopping with his older child only when she moved out of the house.

"It's peace of mind," Moses said. "It's the 21st-century family."

Most Americans seem to have made their peace with video surveillance cameras, which are now widely used by governments and businesses, especially in densely populated areas. In The Washington Post's poll, more than four out of five Americans were comfortable with the number of cameras in use or even would favor having more installed. Only 14 percent would like to see fewer cameras.

But about half of Americans wanted limits on how long police may keep location data on citizens. Such data are collected by advanced video surveillance systems, license-plate readers and other technologies.

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