aNewDomain.net — Eight CEOs of Silicon Valley’s top companies, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo, recently wrote to President Obama, demanding the reformation of government surveillance.
“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor 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 a change.”
As the public, we could commend the letter as affirmation that someone with power will speak for citizen rights. If only it were true and simple. The reality is that these Silicon giants are worried about their bottom line. Largely because of their recent cooperation with NSA-spying tactics, as well as the giants’ increasing onslaught of personal information gathering, consumers worldwide have begun to express immense distrust in these corporations. This hurts their overall income and image, and a vocal stand “against” the ever-spying government could save face.
The question is, are they really worried about the basic rights of citizens?
Citizen or Consumer, What Are You?
There is a stark difference between citizen and consumer, statuses that lie at the heart of the political fight over the future of privacy.
The business of data and privacy “protection” are not unique to the NSA, American Government, or even Silicon Valley. The concept of data protection goes back in history, specifically with European citizens that were forced to live under a dictatorship. The concept of data has taken new meaning in corporate America, where the populace has two major labels: consumers and citizens.
The reigning attitude is that the consumer is an open book for all Silicon Valley companies. We must be fed until absolutely full, and it is unclear when that meal will end. Meanwhile the citizen should be protected from the government and trespasses of privacy. The citizen, not the consumer, has the Constitution on its side.
This line, arguably artificial as many of us are actually consumers and citizens, seems to legitimate a conceptual rift for Silicon Valley and the NSA. The NSA collected citizen and consumer data right next to Silicon Valley, happily too, until Snowden came along. Now the Valley calls for citizen rights, yet it maintains its product war on those very same consumers.
As head of the German Internet giant Telekom, Mr. Rene Obermann does not see a difference between the two:
Obermann pulled no punches in criticizing the data gathering carried out by intelligence agencies in the U.S. and beyond, and said: ‘I was angered most of all because confidence in two pillars of our society, free communication and privacy, has been shaken to such an extent. I think what is happening is in the long term even dangerous to democracy.’ “
The Letter to Obama — The Trust Me Campaign.
In the letter Marrisa Mayer of Yahoo! states:
Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo. Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world. Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions.”
Is this a real rage or is Marrisa a “fox?” A tweet appeared in response to this letter via the Guardian:
This is like the fox demanding reforms of the laws in the chicken coup. After devising every means possible for an exhibitionist public to expose themselves in every possible way, the giant internet companies, who now already control most of our lives, are demanding from government to stop interfering with their work. Hypocrisy on such a grand scale is a rare phenomenon in human history. But when it reaches such levels, you know it’s time to turn off your computer/mobile and go back to being just a human being again.”
The CEOs of the eight tech companies’ letter can be dissected in full here.
Read the letter and think about whether or not you trust these companies. They call for seemingly just rights, but were complicit in violating these rights a short time ago. What should we believe?
For aNewDomain.net, I’m David Michaelis.
Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At aNewDomain.net, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him atDavidMc@aNewDomain.net.