privacy v. security

There’s a wave of media attention building around the subject of individual privacy vs. national security. Apple’s decision to fight the government’s recent requests to unlock various iPhones on privacy grounds has rekindled much of the media interest in these contentious topics.

I’ll leave the actual privacy/security debate to others. Here at mediaQuant we’ve been tracking the media prominence of both topics for the past four years across all corners of the media. And since news media, among other roles, helps frame the discussion and shape public opinion on these two intersecting topics, I thought a little media profile on both would be in order.

First, I’ll start with actual public opinion. You can see from the Pew Research chart how opinions on security versus civil liberties (privacy) have evolved since 2004. Concerns for greater security have been on a 3-year growth rate while concerns for privacy intrusion have gone in the opposite direction.

Now let’s take a look at media ratings (comparative score of media prominence on 100-point scale) on the same two topics.

For the monthly media cycle ending January 31, 2016, there was no change in media attention on national security, with the storyline maintaining its media rating high of 92. Media volumes are enormous for this popular topic, exceeding 29 million mentions for January 2016, placing media value at $226 million.  The topic shows strong traction in all 14 media segments, with the lowest coming from online search at 73 points.

When we move over to privacy stories, we see a slightly weaker, albeit very strong media rating picture. Right to privacy storylines were up +1 point in January, closing the month at 80. Growth over the prior year is moderate at +6 percent, and almost level over the cumulative 4-year period at +3 percent. The topic appears to pull even with national security in strictly online media sources, i.e., online news, blogs, Twitter and discussion forums. Traditional media segments perform well under those covering national security stories.

Not surprisingly, media rating data tracks quite closely to public opinion on security and privacy. Media momentum has been building over the previous 3-months, lagging behind national security stories while privacy coverage got its first media surge in nearly 8-months. Our upcoming February 2016 rating refesh should catch more recent Apple privacy story developments, and possibly accelerate momentum around the topic.

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