Privacy Files: When Enough is Enough


The casual buddy relationship between the Big Tech and the Panopticon may be hitting the rocks.

The Washington Post reports:

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

Bully for Big Tech you say. But hold on. It gets better. From the New York Times.

The White House, hoping to move the national debate over privacy beyond the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities to the practices of companies like Google and Facebook, released a long-anticipated report on Thursday that recommends developing government limits on how private companies make use of the torrent of information they gather from their customers online.

The first quasi-intelligent response to the Snowden leaks by the White House in nine months. And Big Tech is spooked by the specter of regulation?

They should be. Because there won’t be any meaningful limits put on the Panopticon before there are limits put on the use of an individual’s data by private companies. The report specifically raised problems associated with “learning algorithims” that create a digital portrait of a person and can serve as the basis for placing ads as well as job discrimination.

But the skirmishing between the tech firms and the White House reflect larger issues, which can’t be resolved only within U.S. borders.

The Times also reports today that the U.S. and Germany have failed to come to an agreement on limiting collection and sharing intelligence information.

According to U.S. officials, Germany is to blame for the failure:

“What the Germans want, and wanted, is that we would never do anything against their laws on their territory.” That is an agreement the United States “has with no country,” the official said.

Umm. Did I read that right? The N.S.A. is beyond the rule of law?  Does the same exemption apply to the U.S. tech companies who many in Europe and Asia see as working in close connection with the Panopticon?

The failure to come to an agreement with Germany adds fuel to the idea of breaking up the internet, an idea which is gaining currency in the European Union, Brazil and, notably these days, Russia.

Last week, according to The Guardian

Vladimir Putin gave his clearest signal yet that he aims to break up the global nature of the internet when he branded the network a “CIA project” on Thursday.

No doubt the blowback from doing dope with (and getting tax breaks from) the Obama Gang has come back to bite Mark Zuckerberg and Friends. They are willing to declare a modicum of independence.

But as Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, they can do a lot more.

You can get a pdf of the White House report by going here.

Filed under: Mobile, Today's Mission


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