Looking at Cyberspace As a Den of Online Thieves

If Americans are less concerned these days about crime on the streets, perhaps it’s because they feel the nation’s crooks are fully occupied in plotting online crimes. A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found 73 percent of adults “concerned” (including 43 percent who are “very concerned”) about criminals “using the Internet to plan and carry out crimes.” The number who are “very concerned” is lower among people who use the Internet than among the unwired (34 percent versus 52 percent), and similarly lower among Internet “veterans” than “newcomers.” In the hierarchy of fears about Internet crime, child pornography tops the list (cited by92 percent of those polled). Credit-card theft is a close second (87 percent), followed by “organized terrorism” (82 percent) and “wide-scale fraud” (80 percent). Amid all these worries, are people eager to see the government take an active role in policing cyberspace? A bit more than half of all respondents (54 percent) said they’d be willing to see the FBI monitor suspects’e-mail. But as you can see from the chart, vast numbers of Americans don’t trust their government to “do the right thing,” and that suspicion curbs their enthusiasm for intervention by the feds.