Will self-interested corporations succeed where privacy advocates have failed, and force a roll back of online government spying?

bigbrotherOn Monday morning, the world’s leading online technology companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL – launched a coordinated campaign against online government spying. Saying that it’s, “time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information,” the CEOs of the above mentioned companies called on President Obama and Congress to reevaluate the aggressive monitoring of individuals recently brought to light by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Current policies, they maintain, have undermined the public’s “trust in the internet,” which, as you can imagine, from their perspective, is bad for business.

While I certainly hope that these companies are successful in making headway against the surveillance state where we the people have failed, it sucks, in my opinion, that they’re rallying to the cause, not as Mozilla did, because it’s the right thing to do, but because government spying is essentially bad for the business of the internet. “Governments have put this trust at risk,” according to the CEOs of these companies, “and governments need to help restore it.” (“People won’t use technology they don’t trust,” added Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel.)

It’s also worth noting, I think, that none of these companies, to my knowledge, have come forward, as an act of good faith, to say that they’ll be scaling back their own efforts to spy on those individuals who use their systems.

With that said, though, I agree wholeheartedly with the CEOs of the above mentioned companies when they say, “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual – rights that are enshrined in our constitution… This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.”

For more information on this new campaign, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com.

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  1. anonymous
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Many of these companies have also been, and continue to be, willing accomplices to the NSA, providing massive amounts of data. What bothers them isn’t that the NSA is doing this, but that they got caught.

  2. Demetrius
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Putting their true motivations for doing so aside … I’m actually glad to see these powerful “name brand” companies coming together to call attention to this grievous government over-reach.

    Perhaps this will actually capture the attention of the many members of the American public who appear to have accepted (seemingly with a “shrug”) the suspension of their Constitutional rights in exchange for the illusion of “safety.”

  3. Aaron
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It is quite scary the amount we are all spied on or tracked both willingly and unwillingly. From all our purchases that we make using credit cards or discount cards to browser cookies and phone GPS let alone all this NSA news…. creepy. It’s becoming like a world of both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 combined. Not good.

  4. Posted December 10, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    This is pretty disingenuous as these companies have been collecting and analyzing data for commercial purposes for years.

    I would consider private sector intrusions of privacy a greater threat than government surveillance.

  5. Remen
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    It’s disgusting, but this is the world that we live in. The only thing to trump the NSA is big business. They hold the purse strings. They determine who gets elected. Fortunately, on this issue, we stand aligned. We don’t want the government snooping on our online activities, and neither do the companies facilitating those activities. As others have noted, though, these companies have no intention of reigning in their own data gathering activities, which is the height of hypocrisy. In their defense, though, they only use the information gathered to bleed you dry. They can’t spirit you away to a high security prison without a trial.

  6. alan2102
    Posted December 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    in other news…..
    whoops! looks like obomber et alia lied about Assad gassing the civilian
    population (it was the islamic rebels):


    But remember: the first order of business is to Stop the Evil Republicans[tm]!

  7. Meta
    Posted December 13, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Google Removes Vital Privacy Feature From Android, Claiming Its Release Was Accidental

    Yesterday, we published a blog post lauding an extremely important app privacy feature that was added in Android 4.3. That feature allows users to install apps while preventing the app from collecting sensitive data like the user’s location or address book.
    The App Ops interface removed in Android 4.4.2The App Ops interface removed in Android 4.4.2

    After we published the post, several people contacted us to say that the feature had actually been removed in Android 4.4.2, which was released earlier this week. Today, we installed that update to our test device, and can confirm that the App Ops privacy feature that we were excited about yesterday is in fact now gone.

    When asked for comment, Google told us that the feature had only ever been released by accident — that it was experimental, and that it could break some of the apps policed by it. We are suspicious of this explanation, and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature rather than improving it.

    Read more:

  8. Happy Chef
    Posted August 25, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    It would seem the answer to your question is no.

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