Attitudes toward government surveillance | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Attitudes toward government surveillance

/ 05:10 AM April 21, 2018

This is the second in a series comparing the attitudes of Filipinos (PH), Thais (TH), Taiwanese (TW), South Koreans (SK), Japanese (JP), and Americans (US) toward their governments, based on the 2016 surveys of the International Social Survey Programme ( on the Role of Government (see “Attitudes toward government (1),” Opinion, 4/14/18).

The attitudes discussed this time are about whether, in the interest of public security, the government should have the right to do certain things. The table shows the percentages saying that the government definitely should, plus probably should, have the right to do them. The alternative responses are probably should not and definitely should not, with no neutral option.


Video surveillance. In all the countries, at least half think the government should have the right to install videocams in public places (Q11a).

Filipinos (8 of 10) are the second most amenable, after Taiwanese (9 of 10). Then come Thais, Japanese, and Americans.  The least permissive are South Koreans (5 of 10).


Monitoring emails and the internet. Only in the Philippines is there an absolute majority (54 percent) thinking that the government should have the right to monitor personal emails and gather data available on the internet (Q11b).

The next highest percentages, in Taiwan (42) and Thailand (34), are minorities.  Elsewhere, at most 1 in 4 would give the government the right to check emails.

Collecting information about people without their knowledge. There are two items for this, one referring to residents of the country, and the other referring to persons abroad.  The context for both items, cited in the survey questions, is national security.

In both instances, Filipinos are the most conservative or “rightist”: Two-thirds say the government should have the right to secretly collect information about residents (Q13a), and half say it should have the right to secretly collect information about persons abroad (Q13b).

The next most conservative are Thais.  The most liberal or “leftist” are South Koreans and Japanese: only one in five would allow the government to do these two things.

Impairing human rights and personal privacy. In an antiterror campaign, should the government have the right to detain suspects without trial (Q14a), to tap the phones of suspects (Q14b), and to stop and search people at random (Q14c)?  In all three instances, Filipinos are the most opposed.

In particular, only 1 of 5 Filipinos, compared to 1 of 2 Taiwanese, Japanese and Americans, would allow phone-tapping of terrorism suspects. Only 1 of 3 Filipinos, compared to at least 1 of 2 Taiwanese, South Koreans and Japanese, would allow random stop-and-search.


Conclusion. The 2016 ISSP survey reveals that Filipinos are more conservative or “rightist” on certain matters, yet more liberal or “leftist” in other matters.  Filipinos are not entirely one or the other, but a little of both.

Attitudes toward government surveillance, 2016

“Government should have the right… (%)             PH       TH       TW      SK        JP         US

Q11a. … to put videocams in public places”           83        77        91        51        68        64

Q11b … to monitor emails & internet”                   54        34        42        22        26        23

Q13a … to collect information on anyone in the

country without their knowledge” *                                   64        51        32        20        23        43

Q13b … to collect information on anyone

abroad without their knowledge” *                                    50        48        35        23        21        43

Q14a… to detain suspects without trial” **            22        28        24        36        37        36

Q14b… to tap phones of suspects” **                     19        26        53        29        51        50

Q14c… to stop & search at random” **                  36        38        58        61        50        34

* In the name of national security.  ** In an antiterror campaign.

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TAGS: attitude, role of government, Social survey
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