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Why data privacy could unite Red and Blue America

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As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress this week, voters had good reason to pay attention. Americans are online a lot: Seventy-three percent of us use social media, 45 of us went online more than 25 times last week, 43 percent of us did some form of online banking last month, according to Simmons Consumer Research. And we hold deep concerns about what happens to our personal information online.

In a country divided on policy, politics and culture, concerns about privacy emerge as something of a great uniter, Simmons data suggest. Americans of all stripes share a feeling of helplessness when they post personal information online. They want more personal control over information companies have gathered on them. And they don’t place a lot of faith in the federal government to make the best decisions about protecting their privacy.

More than four in 10 Americans say that once a piece of personal information is online there’s nothing they can do about it. Six in 10 say they want more control over the information companies might have on them. And only 18 percent say they trust the federal government to make the best decisions about how to protect their privacy.

That’s a lot of misgivings and mistrust.

It’s not enough to scare us off of our electronic devices, at least not yet. Only 22 percent of Americans say privacy concerns have caused them to reduce internet usage. But the broad agreement on the security and use of personal data online shows this is a Washington debate that people care about.

The numbers aren’t monolithic, particularly when you look at the data by age. There are some noteworthy generational gaps between Boomers, for whom the online realm was a late addition to their world, and Millennials, who are “digital natives.”

Among people ages 25 to 34, the Millennials, 41 percent say they “feel like they have a fair amount of control over the personal information” that can be found about them online. With those ages 55 to 64, the Boomers, only 26 percent feel that way.

That’s a 15-point gap and it may have something to do with the difference between growing up with the internet and having to adjust to it. There’s a reason younger people often get calls from their parents to serve as “tech support.” What’s less clear is whether that Millennial confidence in warranted.

The Millennial age group is also more likely to say the information about them online is “relatively harmless,” 47 percent believe that. Only 30 percent of the Boomer age group believes that to be true.

Some of that split may be about the kind of information that those age groups are thinking about, photos and social media posts on one hand versus credit scores and banking records on the other.

And the education divide rears its head in these numbers. The Simmons data shows that those with a college education are much more likely to look up a company online before sharing personal information than those without a degree.

More than half of those with a bachelor’s degree, 51 percent, say they check out the website that wants their information before they enter it. The number for those without a degree is 35 percent.

But when you look at the most politically meaningful divide in the nation, the partisan split between Democrats and Republicans, the differences in the numbers fade. For the most part, Red and Blue America are in agreement on concerns about online privacy.

Democrats and Republicans are separated by four points or less on questions about their personal control over online information. And two-thirds of the members of both parties say they want more control over their personal data.

Furthermore, while Democrats are more likely to say they trust the government to make the best decisions about how to protect their privacy, the number is still very low — 21 percent for Democrats versus 14 percent for Republicans. And both groups, by the way, fall almost exactly in line with the national average on whether they are using the internet less because of worries about online privacy.

How often do you see members of the nation’s two major political parties show that kind of agreement on anything, particularly a hot topic in the news? That’s one reason why this issue isn’t likely to go away.

But this issue is not necessarily a slam dunk for Washington.

Americans are nervous about sharing information online. They want more control over their data. And they aren’t especially eager to scale back on the online time that has become a very big part of their lives. But they’re not really sure they trust the government to figure out the answer.

In other words, Democrats and Republicans agree that they want something done, but the question echoing through the halls of Congress is: “What now?”

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Angry French ambassador shows true colours by reminding Biden about naval victory over UK

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BREXIT Britain’s newly forged defence deal with Australia and the US infuriated French Ambassador to America, Philippe Etienne, who took a bitter swipe at his transatlantic allies.

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China, France furious at new U.S. security alliance with Britain, Australia

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HONG KONG — America’s new security alliance with Britain and Australia was always likely to be greeted with fury by China, the unspoken target of Washington’s latest effort to reinforce its influence in the region.

And it was. But the pact also incensed France, a longtime ally that felt its Indo-Pacific interests had been torpedoed by the submarine-centered agreement.

At a news briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Zhao added that any regional alliance “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”

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In a briefing before Wednesday evening’s announcement, a Biden administration official stressed that the pact “is not aimed at any one country.”

But the AUKUS deal comes as the U.S. steps up its efforts to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology that the U.S. had only previously shared with Britain. The pact also allows for greater collaboration between the three countries on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence, as well as in other areas.

It will also make Australia the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines, after the U.S., Britain, France, China, India and Russia. Unlike those other countries, Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

“The U.S. has only ever shared this technology with the U.K., so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge,” said Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, in a statement shared with NBC News.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been in a downward spiral, with the U.S. ally emerging as a key bulwark in the West’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence.

China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, has embarked on a trade war in return.

There now appears little prospect for improved ties, which the Australian government will have taken into consideration, according to Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“I think China will probably increase the pressure on us as a result of this, but frankly we need to do this in order to ensure our security,” he said.

But it’s not just China that was irked by the deal.

France also expressed outrage after the agreement brought its own deal to build submarines for Australia, inked in 2016, to an abrupt end.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly voiced their displeasure in a joint statement.

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” they said, “shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A visibly angry Le Drian later described the announcement as “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he added. “This is not done between allies.”

Australia signed a 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion.Naoya Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun via AP file

Parly said Thursday that the government would try to minimize the financial impact of the canceled deal on submarine manufacturer Naval Group, which is mostly state-owned.

Asked whether France would seek compensation from Australia, she did not rule it out.

Being sidelined by the new alliance was a “big disappointment” for French trade, according to Frédéric Charillon, a political science professor at France’s Clermont Auvergne University.

“But, what is probably more worrying now is…the lack of confidence that is now growing between the Biden administration and at least some of the European alliance, including France,” he said.

Washington appears to be fueling “the impression that maybe the new administration (is) not that different from the last,” Charillon added.

In New Zealand opposition leaders questioned why Australia’s neighbor and close ally had been left out of the loop.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her government had not been approached as part of the pact, “nor would I expect us to be.”

But she added that any nuclear-powered submarines Australia acquired would not be allowed in the country’s territorial waters, since its longstanding nuclear-free policy forbids the entry of vessels powered by nuclear energy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that in spite of the hard feelings among both rivals and some allies, this was simply an opportunity his country couldn’t turn down.

The advantages of nuclear submarines were clear, he said: “They’re faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity.”

“Australians would expect me as prime minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe and to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can,” he added. “And that is what I have done.”

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Chantal Da Silva reported from Toronto.

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Socialist-raised Liz Truss shaping up to be 'Thatcher 2.0' as she secures Cabinet boost

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LIZ TRUSS has slowly built up a reputation as a “radical classical liberal” member of the Conservative Party, with Institute for Government chief Mark Littlewood tipping her for a “Thatcher 2.0” role within her party.

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