When Edward Snowden revealed the extent of US Government surveillance and just how much corporations cooperated with them to accomplish their goals everyone was shocked. Many could not believe that the companies we trust would betray us in the ways that Snowden showed. Even as the clarifications and denials were being typed up by Microsoft, Google and others the consumer backlash was starting and not just in the US. Consumers here and overseas were pulling their data out and cancelling accounts. This change has (and will continue to) seriously hurt technology companies financially. As we all know, the only way to motivate big business is to hit them in the bank account.
Lately the news has had a few articles about how companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo etc. are pushing the government for radical changes to their surveillance policies and demanding better protections for their customers. We have seen new ads focused on explaining how important our data is to them (and in some cases how the other guys are abusing it). The groups lining up and demanding change are many of the same companies that Edward Snowden’s bevy of leaked documents claimed were working hand in hand with the NSA to allow for mass spying on peoples’ data and that in cases where they were not directly cooperating lax security practices allowed for easy retrieval of user information.
After one user of LG's Smart TV noticed that the device collects data about his habits, regardless of the adjusted settings, LG decided to make a statement about the situation. They acknowledged the error and promised compensation
The fight for internet freedom, privacy and net neutrality has been a rough one. Over the past couple of years we have watched as a parade of laws have trotted past us. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and more have all shown us one certain thing; the powers that be have little to no regard for individual freedoms, free speech or the impact of restrictive laws on innovation, technology and the economy as a whole. However there was an underlying trend to these laws that disturbed us and many other privacy and right groups out there. The trend was a general trammeling of the right to free speech when it comes to any online sources; some would even say any source that had an opposing view point. Even the right to have protected sources was slowly being removed if you were an independent blogger (citizen journalist) and this effort is now being expanded.
There is a rumor going around (from “sources wishing to remain anonymous”) that claims that US Law Enforcement and the NSA have been asking internet companies for user passwords. The article originally posted by cNet has made the rounds this morning across a few sites; all of them pointing back at the single cNet source. Now on top of everything else that is going on many people are ready to jump on board with this and further denounce the NSA, the FBI, DHS, IRS, and anyone else in the US government with initials. But outside of the claims from a single blogger at cNet are there any other indications that this is a common practice?
Microsoft is taking great exception to the reports of their cooperation with the NSA. It seems they do not feel the reports that they have given encryption keys, created backdoors or unrestricted access to their servers is fair. Instead they are releasing some information in the hopes that they can prove they did not do anything wrong. Sadly, as is always the case, what they leave out of their statements is as important as what is in them and there is some fairly eye opening information in their actual statement.
Google at the beginning of 2012 changed their policy regarding the privacy of users of their services. Despite the fact that months earlier they warned users about future changes, users did not have too many choices, they could continue to use the service under the new rules or cancel the services.
After the massive leak about the NSA’s PRISM project many people are understandably upset and members of congress have been pulled into closed door meetings to be briefed on the details of what the program is doing. At the same time the companies named in the leaked slides are rushing to perform damage control and protect their businesses from losing customers. So far most of these have come as flat-out denials of any complicity or knowledge of project PRISM. Sadly, even if they were involved most National Security Letters or data requests also come with a gag order preventing them from giving any details or even acknowledging the event. This makes the claims from Microsoft, Google and others seem a tad hollow in the face of what is going on.
The collection of personal data has reach an all-time high (or low as the case may be) today as it has been announced that a massive database of voter personal information has been released for the expressed purpose of advancing a political agenda. According to a statement made by the political action group OFA (Organizing for Action) the Obama campaign has given them access to their database of voter information. The database has more than personal information of more than 4 Million Donors and millions of other voters. The data is a collection of personal information including Facebook interactions (Friends and likes) Cell Phone numbers and more.
Google is not exactly looking good right now. It appears that despite being ordered to delete the data that they illegally captured from people in the UK through WiFi sniffers it put into its street view cars back in 2010. Google originally tried to claim that they did not collect any data. Then after it was proven they did that it was all due to a rouge programmer that did everything without authorization. This excuse did not hold up either when it was shown that people in management not only knew, but approved the collection.