Is Google watching you? If you believe that to be the case, then you’re very much not alone. A survey of 1,000 Brits published today by Insurance2go reveals that 35% of respondents fear that Google spies on its users.
The survey was devised to try and determine UK citizens’ relationship with conspiracy theory, so it’s kind of appropriate that Google came out on top, given its own platform YouTube has an enormous problem with spreading dangerous myths. Of course, the company doesn’t help itself when it forgets to tell people about microphones included in its own devices.
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Interestingly, as well as the conspiracy theory classics (27% believe JFK wasn’t shot by Lee Harvey Oswald and 24% reckon Area 51 holds UFO remains), there are quite a few modern technology fears reflected in the findings. Twenty percent of respondents believe that webcams and front-facing cameras on smartphones are there for government surveillance, while 18% believe that sleeping next to a charging phone is bad for your health.
Eighteen percent also believe that Instagram’s uncanny ability to advertise interesting content is due to eavesdropping on smartphone microphones, and 13% think that DNA testing websites are a cunning way for the government to collect DNA samples. While that last one ties in neatly with the Google fears, given parent-company Alphabet owns 23andMe, you’d have thought the government would have more success collecting DNA if the kits weren’t so prohibitively expensive.
Rounding up the top ten is the belief that the illuminati controls politics and the media (16%), that the moon landing was staged (13%) and that the US government was behind the 9/11 attacks.
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Where are people hearing about these conspiracy theories? Well, surprisingly only 16% of them from Facebook, although given family and friends is on 26%, it’s possible there’s a degree of overlap there. Nearly a third heard about conspiracy theories from books, while 66% claimed to have heard of these theories via documentaries. Of course, the term ‘documentaries’ is a loose one, and presumably encompasses everything from full cinema releases all the way down to a three-minute YouTube video from someone cynically posting flat-Earther material for the ad money.
Interestingly, 26% of respondents admitted to following conspiracy theories on YouTube, which has a tendency to algorithmically push users to more and more extreme videos. There’s something of an irony that people who believe Google is spying on them use a Google product to research their theories, but it does mean that the company’s plan to bring in fact checkers may be a hiding to nothing. After all, if you genuinely believe a company is lying to you, why would you trust their fact checkers?
Do you buy any of Britain’s most believed conspiracy theories? Let us know on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.