Back in October we featured an article about a new alliance that was forming between Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Google and Twitter to throw their collective internet money into a big pile on the House of Representatives floor, hopefully in an attempt to start reigning in a situation that has clearly gotten so far out of control at this point that not even our own legislators were aware how deep the rabbit hole really goes.
(The irony of course, is many of them, including Arizona republican Senator John McCain and President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff took to the 140-character social media monster to voice their displeasure with the country’s’ handling of its own intelligence wing.)
Now the internet-savvy firms have taken the next logical step and used their vast teams of eager engineers to encrypt their traffic, and Google is already exploring options in the quantum field of the new net security horizon dropped on our laps in just the last six months. On top of this herculean effort undertaken for the low low cost of nothing to the consumer, they’ve launched a website detailing their complaints, grievances, and intents in full view of the American and British governments.
The heading reads:
“The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.
While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.
Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action.”
Some worry these efforts may be nothing more than a positive PR stunt to try and skirt some of the blame for every time when they lawfully and damn-near openly allowed both governments to read the data of nearly 6,000 people per year, and that’s just on Yahoo alone. Many of these businesses wouldn’t be where they are if they hadn’t drafted the most skilled marketers and advertisers in the game, so the reason to suspect this slick looking site that claims to want one thing and do another is nothing more than a front is still in the air.
You’ll also notice two names conspicuously absent from this list (Apple and Amazon), who have both seen a respectable amount of success with their tablet lines which all have a front facing camera and run the same version of iOS 7 and Android JellyBean that the feds probably cracked with their help.
Personally, I think it all got out of their hands a little bit. Even if they thought they were helping (read: filling a legal obligation) to turn over the details of people who probably were connected to underground networks in one way or another, I feel like many, if not all of them have the income and the spare cash to employ a team big enough to accurately and safely handle those requests which were supposedly being approved by a FISA court. Well aware of PRISM, it seems there was a distinct change in tone after the news broke MUSCULAR, the bulk-data collection program designed to hack directly into the servers and fiber optic links between data centers and take control of mass amounts of information by raw, unbridled force. With the strength of the US and UK governments behind it, there was nothing these people couldn’t know, and once these companies discovered how far and deep this trench they’d initially helped to dig had grown while they had their backs turned.
“Governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.”
They can’t be blamed for being outsmarted by an intelligence agency, can they? Sure, they can curse the programmers on record, kick up a fuss in the papers, and write letters all they want, but we all know nothing is going to happen unless they start shelling cash into the pockets of people who matter on the Hill and in Parliament.