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From Bad to Worse

PRISM compounds the lack of trust in our leaders



When news broke of the PRISM program, the world reacted in shock; shock that governments and organizations may be monitoring all of their web-based activities. Ironically, the public took to the web again to voice their concern.

In the three days since the story first broke, PRISM has generated more than one billion impressions on Twitter. At the height of conversation there were nearly 6,000 social posts per hour, and while the chatter continues, we’re left wondering how this latest scandal will impact confidence in our leaders.

According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, less than one fifth of the public believe that business leaders and government officials would tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue. It also found that building trust has never been more important – nor more challenging – for businesses and government. This weekend’s revelations on PRISM will only make this recovery more difficult.

Who do citizens trust to tell them what is really going on?

U.S. President Barack Obama says PRISM is not aimed at U.S. citizens and tech companies deny giving direct access to user data. Other government officials, like UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, say law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear. PRISM is designed to “monitor potentially valuable foreign communications that might pass through U.S. servers,” not to spy on regular citizens.

Can the public believe their leaders and will their trust in them ever be fully restored? Incidents such as the PRISM scandal will no doubt make this harder to achieve.

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