Monday, December 9, 2013

Surveillance and the Tech Companies: THE JIG IS UP!

Major tech companies have put out a clarion call today: Reform Government Surveillance! AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have discovered that the public is fed up with being spied on and know exactly where to point the finger: the government.

However, before we fall into a swoon over how the wonderful tech sector is looking out for our interests, we should first face up to the primary responsibility of the tech sector for creating the problem.

For a great primer on the data management that makes these companies hum -- and how that way of doing data management  inevitably cries out to be used for surveillance -- watch Terms and Conditions May Apply. This documentary is so fundamental to understanding what's happening today with the destruction of privacy and the empowerment of the government to conduct blanket surveillance that very soon we are all going to be talking about it. Let's just call it "TACMA."

The big thing I took away from TACMA is that the Rubicon was crossed when Google and others figured out that they would never be able to make money -- REAL money -- if their data management protocols shielded the identities of individuals. So they "reluctantly" backed away from such a limitation.

As anyone who has ever noodled with a spreadsheet knows, once the "key" to the individual is linkable, it's a free-for-all.

The government certainly has to clean up it's act.  But if we're going to make any progress on stopping surveillance in 2014, we're going to have to take on the tech companies themselves.

Related links

One issue that has a key place in the midterm elections in 2014, I believe, is surveillance.  With each passing day, I am hearing more and more people say that the surveillance issue is something that a wide spectrum of people are deeply upset about. That includes people on the right as well as people on the left -- people who don't usually talk with each other, much less work together for positive change!

(See The Surveillance Issue: The Fulcrum of the 2014 Election?)

Edward J. Snowden has forced us to confront what we all knew already: our government is running wild and we can't get our privacy back, short of some kind of very extreme change . . . . We have a problem with our government. It sees opportunities for power in every bit and byte of our personal data, and it's time to call it what it is: wrong.

See Fed Up With Being Spied On

There has been a good sign in 2013, in that many people have become outraged about government surveillance. A recent Pew poll found that Americans are now more worried about civil liberties abuses than terrorism. I believe a big question in 2014 will be whether challengers successfully address the issue of NSA surveillance in their campaigns.

(See What Will Election 2014 Boil Down To? )