We are communicating faster, better and more often than ever before. We can thank the internet and mobile communications for most of that, but with such power we must also be more careful. Laws on the matter are still evolving, making our internet/cellphone data the most valuable source of information for our government (and all others across the world).
If you think about it, our smartphones and computers know everything about us. More so than even your spouse, sometimes. It holds the secret websites you would never tell anyone you visit, it stores all your conversations, your friends contact details, your financial information and much more. It’s your whole life… in the cloud.
Government vs. internet
So, does the government have too much power over our data? It sure does. This is why 8 of the biggest tech companies in the world have gotten together to fight against the NSA’s surveillance programs. Such companies include Google, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn. The government is not talking to kids here, these are the big guys in the playground.
These tech giants have put together an open letter directed at President Obama and the Congress, which will be published on Monday, December 10th on national print ads. The tech industry is not taking it lightly. You can learn more about the letter and its request at the Reform Government Surveillance site.
What do we want?!
You can read all the details at the Reform Government Surveillance site, but here are the main points:
- Limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information
- Oversight and accountability
- Transparency about government demands
- Respecting the free flow of information
- Avoiding conflicts among governments
I believe the idea here is that the government and law enforcements have too much un-monitored control over our data. No one is stopping them or controlling their surveillance. Google and all other companies understand that people’s security is important and the government needs some form of access to data. Transparency and privacy are important as well, though.
Law enforcement vs. mobile/internet
And all of these worries are not in vain. Some people may think we are over-hyping the issue but there are tangible numbers we must consider. Senator Edward J. Markey recently requested information on law enforcement data requests to cellphone carriers.
It’s impressive to find out USA law enforcement agencies requested information from carriers over 1.1 MILLION times in 2012. What is the problem with that? The police many times doesn’t even need a warrant to access our information. Many times they even ask for “Tower Dumps”, in which they request all cellphone interaction in with certain towers, during a set period of time.
Of course, it will take time for all these matters to be fixed. The letter to Obama and the Congress is a great move to get the government’s attention. They need to realize this is an important matter and not just a passing phase. As for law enforcement and mobile data – Senator Markey is working on passing legislation to force law enforcement to have a probable cause warrant before tapping into carriers’ data.
The future of internet/mobile privacy is uncertain. The big guys are asking the government for better privacy while many of us (the citizens) ask for more privacy from all companies and organizations. Information is power – and all these companies are VERY powerful.
[Reform Government Surveillance, New York Times]