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60 Minutes/Vanity Fair: Cyber

Welcome to the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll for March 2015. There may be no subject on the world stage more topical than the cyber world, the Internet and the computer networks that interconnect us. In the aftermath of several prominent security breaches and hacks, including what may be the first billion-dollar robbery which targeted several banks, President Obama recently addressed the first summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. He called our cyber-connectedness "hugely empowering but dangerous." He signed an executive order that envisioned "government and industry working together and sharing appropriate information as true partners."

Despite some bad feelings created by the government's use of big data mining, most people agree that hackers and cybercriminals especially if used by terrorists could pose a huge threat to our freedom and security. Many ethical questions are still searching for answers. Where lies the intersection between the freedom we enjoy and the security that we need? How much technology is too much? The Dalai Lama said "technology has increased human ability but it cannot produce compassion." More than 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau famously described his farming neighbors as having become "the tool of their tools." Walk down any big city street in America and you will witness his prescience firsthand. Do you think most people who own smartphones are addicted to them, or not? We look forward to your answer to this question and many more and now the results...

Is it worth it?


A little more than half (53 percent) think recent advances in technology are worth the threat they might pose to our privacy and 43 percent said they are not worth it. A higher percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 (63 percent) thought it was worth it while more Americans over the age of 44 who can remember a time before computers did not think it was worth the potential threat to their privacy.

Big Brother


A majority of Americans (54 percent) think that Big Brother should not be watching us even if he's trying to keep us safe while 41 percent think the government should be allowed to monitor the Internet activities of ordinary Americans in its efforts to fight terrorism. Again, where lies the intersection between freedom and security? Like most issues of this magnitude, it will probably end up before the Supreme Court one day.

Most Secure


When it comes to the most secure way to communicate with another person the United States Postal Service delivers for 41 percent of Americans, the telephone rings true for 40 percent, nine percent stick to the text and only seven percent trust the security of their email the most. There is something nice in the fact that many Americans still place their trust in the U.S. Post Office that has been "old reliable" since Ben Franklin first ran it in 1775.

You've been hacked!


It's not business, it's personal. Nearly seven out of 10 Americans are more frightened about their personal emails getting hacked versus only 19 percent who fear having their work email hacked. Nine percent said they don't even use email which is perhaps the best strategy.

Price of security


A majority of Americans (51 percent) would not be willing to pay extra for an Internet connection that was completely safe and secure. A third would pay $10 a month, one in 10 would go as high as $50 per month and only two percent said they would pay $100 every month for the peace of mind in knowing they can't get hacked. Based on the reports concerning cyberwarfare that we hear about so often on CBS News, is there any connection that can truly be deemed completely safe and secure?



For about one in four Americans, the feature that would most likely convince them that their smartphone was worthy of its name would be if it didn't need to be recharged every day. Another one in four think it would be truly smart if it could disable the ability to text while driving. Fourteen percent said if it could survive without a protective case, 11 percent would like it better at half the price, another 11 percent volunteered that they don't own a smartphone and eight percent pointed out that a smartphone that can't spell might not be aptly named.



A whopping 87 percent of Americans think that most people who own smartphones are addicted to them and only 11 percent disagree. No doubt everybody has witnessed people on sidewalks or in cars or restaurants that are more focused on their smartphone than on the people around them creating situations that range from mildly rude to unsafe. It's a cautionary tale about a habit where most people could probably use a little improvement.

Social Media


When asked which social media outlet they use most often, 41 percent of Americans said they were Googlers, 31 percent said they use "The Social Network," 20 percent said none of the above, only five percent pictured themselves using Instagram and only two percent said they tweeted the most.

You've been warned


If you're planning a run for public office beware of social media. Fifty-eight percent of Americans think that 20 years from now, it is very likely and 28 percent think it is somewhat likely that a person's social media history will be the primary basis for possible political attacks against candidates for office. Only 11 percent said they thought it was not very likely. Remember that wild party you went to last year? So does the Internet. To all of you aspiring public servants and politicians, you heard it here first, the smarter you are now, the less dumb you'll look later.



In our "selfie" absorbed society, when embarrassing "selfies" go viral on the Internet, 36 percent of Americans put the blame on the person who took the pictures, 12 percent blamed the people who distributed the pictures and about half the country said there's plenty of blame to go around for both parties. The moral of the story is to avoid being in embarrassing pictures in the first place and follow the advice to aspiring politicians from the previous question.

Google It


Don't be surprised... that only 16 percent correctly stated that Google's original corporate motto was said to be "Don't be evil." Nineteen percent guessed "Don't be shy" followed by "Don't be worried" 19 percent, "Don't be silly" nine percent and "Don't be cautious" five percent. One out of three Americans guessed "Don't know." They should have Googled it.

This poll was conducted by telephone from January 9-13, 2015 among 1,016 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus 3 percentage points. The error for other subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Poll. Read more about this poll.

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