12-09-2013 02:34 PM
I'll be brief, because I'm seven days now with the flu and don't feel much like writing. But today's "open letter" for global government surveillance reform demands rebuke.
I'm all for curbing government snooping, but what about corporations collecting information? Tech Giant's -- AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo -- reform rally is disingenuous and self-serving. These same companies collect mountains of personal information for profit. So, what? It's okay for them to snoop, but not governments?
My thinking: Trust no one, particularly those with strong financial incentives. I soundly support reform requests from parties that don't directly benefit from curbs -- particularly, in the United States, those standing on the Constitution.
In assessing anything I report about, the first question asked: Who benefits? The letters' principal signers are the biggest beneficiaries. These companies seek immediate public relations gains, by disassociating from an unpopular practice for which they either are or are perceived to be complicit. Long-term, reform removes the government as an information-collector competitor, frees these companies from having to share customer information with authorities, and loosens corporations from government scrutiny -- if nothing else extent of their own information gathering and location of their web servers.
Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA spying are unfathomable to comprehend and surely unconstitutional. But bureaucracy collecting information en masse is very different from the cold, directed tactics the letters' principal signatories use. They are easily able to identify who you are and build portfolios based on online behavior.
The following article is a update:
US tech giants urge Congress to curb mass digital surveillance.
As the date of the expiry of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act draws near, a wide range of tech companies, privacy advocates, and trade associations have asked the US president, US politicians and prominent government officials to reform US surveillance laws.
Both Section 215, which serves as the legal basis for the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata, and Section 214, which regulates the use of electronic surveillance devices such as pen registers and trap-and-trace devices as approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, are set to expire on June 1, 2015.
In an open letter addressed to the aforementioned individuals in the legislative and executive branches of the US government, the coalition has called for a "clear, strong, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA PATRIOT Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and the Section 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices."