It's Finally Dawning On Tech Companies That All This NSA Stuff Is Bad For Them

from the more-of-that-please dept

We’ve been arguing since the beginning of the Snowden leaks, that the tech industry should be much angrier than it is about all of this, because the fallout and blowback from this is going to impact these companies quite a bit. To date, the big tech companies have been fighting back, but it’s mostly focused on the transparency issue, arguing in court that the gag orders barring them from talking about what the government has legally compelled them to do, is a violation of their First Amendment rights. And that’s correct and an important fight, but we’ve been disappointed that the tech companies haven’t supported even greater reforms and changes, including greater privacy protections. But that might be changing.

Obviously, the news of the NSA infiltrating private network links between data centers should make these companies even angrier. It appears that Google is getting there, though Yahoo still doesn’t seem to realize what just happened.

However, in an interesting move that at least hints at potential further realization from the tech industry that they need to support user privacy rights, the big guys — Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL — have all sent a letter to Congress in support of the USA Freedom Act. In it, they once again talk up the importance of greater transparency. But, also, for the first time that I can remember, they appear to be arguing for even more:

Transparency is a critical first step to an informed public debate, but it is clear that more needs to be done. Our companies believe that government surveillance practices should also be reformed to include substantial enhancements to privacy protections and appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms for those programs.

And, even with the letter being sent today, it was almost certainly written and approved before yesterday’s revelations — meaning that this was before they realized the NSA was trying (and succeeding) to backdoor into their networks without their knowledge. Hopefully they’ll start pushing for even more significant reforms as well. Some have argued that the tech industry has been complicit in the NSA surveillance efforts, while others have suggested they were compelled, or even tricked/hacked into it. The evidence suggests a combination of all of those factors (in varying degrees across the different companies). But if they want to actually regain the trust of their users, they should stand up for the rights of their users and support the efforts to create real change and to stop illegal surveillance, rather than just increasing transparency.

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Companies: aol, apple, facebook, google, microsoft, yahoo

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Comments on “It's Finally Dawning On Tech Companies That All This NSA Stuff Is Bad For Them”

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Anonymous Coward says:

*gasp* You mean it’s finally dawned on them that international repercussions are going to effect their business models? Or is it to say that they might have their precious trade secrets exposed?

Who knew?

This isn’t over by a long shot. Many of these corporations have long term contracts but they end at some point and when they do, it’s liable to be dropped for another company outside the US’s domain.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: @ The AC who knows what to do about search engines:

“Unlike ootb, I know what to do about search engines… as in don’t use those that aren’t too concerned about where their data is going or who gets to use it.”

I suppose that an answer to my question in a prior item. Gosh, that solves the whole problem of Google tracking and collating everyone across teh Internets! And will totally prevent the gov’t from getting all the data that Google has. — Sheesh. Do you even know what Javascript is, or about web bugs, or know any of Google’s many parasites such as doubleclick, google-analytics, and its captcha and other web kit? Those are now in most web-sites and much more invasive than merely search results, and nearly impossible to avoid at all times. — No, obviously you’re just a dimwit who doesn’t even know the scope of Google, if think you’ve escaped its surveillance. You’re worse than no help at all!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: @ The AC who knows what to do about search engines:

Now you wanna talk about dimwits, you’ve just given a fine example. Exactly why people turn your posts invisible.

For all your ranting and raving it is very obvious you have no clue of what you speak of. If you don’t know how to get around that crap you’re worse off than I thought you are because it indicates you are eat up with the dumb ass.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @ The AC who knows what to do about search engines:

Cathy doesn’t understand how the internet works. It seems she’s currently whining about how online activity can be picked up by search engines, but that is how search engines work!

Any comment made online can be picked up and used to call you out down the line depending on how stupid or wrong it is. Any search you make is picked up and used to serve you more accurate results the next time around. Otherwise, enjoy the frustration of trying to find what you’re looking for while wading through pages of crap you’re not interested in.

That’s what she’s complaining about.

out_of_the_blue says:

Thanks, kids! out_of_the_blue got 3 mentions already!

That’s what it’s like to be me! Dominating the blog-o-space, so influential that the 13-year-olds think it necessary to mention and ad hom in advance! (At least tritely; only level zero trolls are fans of Techdirt. Still, I appreciate it because is the best that they can do.)

Anyhoo, Mike, with only 6 comments so far, half of them sheer idiots with ad hom for me, is it “finally dawning” on you that this NSA bump has nearly run its course?

And while you haven’t made any predictions about it, and thus can’t actually be wrong, you have at times given the impression that Congress will take action, but do you really think that this lame call from mega-corporations for vague “substantial enhancements” is anything but Public Relations ploy? Sheesh. I’d have to strain to write anything so vague.

And yet again, your pro-corporatist concern is only for corporations, and alleged “violation of their” totally imaginary “First Amendment rights,” WITHOUT A WORD of concern for we mere “natural” persons.

So long as “The Market” (if not NSA directly) rewards Google for spying, do you expect it to do LESS of it?


out_of_the_blue says:

Oh, you're proven wrong already, Mike! They're all eager to help!

“Google Inc. (GOOG:US), Red Hat Inc. (RHT:US), Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US) and other technology companies are contributing dozens of computer engineers and programmers to help the Obama administration fix the U.S. health-insurance exchange website.”

Now, if that doesn’t get you to suspect tech mega-corporations are all in cahoots with the administration and would like to distance themselves from it, you are, to use one of Mike’s favorite terms, clueless.

Tom Stone (profile) says:

How quickly and severely will this affect Real Estate

I’m a Real Estate Broker and blogger who works in W Sonoma County. I have been folowing the Snowden revelations closely from the get go and can’t seem to find many people who agree with me when I say that the fallout will substantially affect home and property values in very specific markets. There will be a lag, but how long? And how much of an affect? It seems to me that increased awareness of how vulnerable cloud computing is will be more than a nothingburger, and EU sanctions won’t be small either. Who gets hurt first, who gets hurt worst? I comment at “Calculated Risk” often and write for “Bay Area Real Estate Trends”, I would much appreciate the insights of this blog’s followers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How quickly and severely will this affect Real Estate

Short answer — not much.
Longer: obviously, general property values depend a lot more on the general state of the economy and stuff like interest rates than on the performance of specific companies.

Within that framework, for a specific area, I’d also look to the supply-and-demand issues related to local employers. So if the Snowden stuff was to lead to non-US customers spending elsewhere, that could eventually alter the hiring practices of a particular company, and thus the local demand.

But realistically, unless a particular local economy is overwhelmingly dominated by a single employer, the latter effects will be buried by the former. And the damn Bay Area is overpriced, anyway.

Mr Big Content says:

Its All The Stupid Customers Fault

It’s a shame to see loyal, upstanding companies being blackmailed into ending their cooperation with the Government’s anti-terrorism efforts through the terrorist-sympathizer efforts of their own customers. This sort of thing should be illegal. Any action by a customer that weakens such a company should be seen as a direct attack on our National Security, and responded to appropriately. Once a company has been classified as loyal, hurting their revenues should be treated as a terroristic act.

Cloudsplitter says:

Hot Ain't It

Having sold their souls to the devil, these companies and their minions are now shocked the the devil will not stop with a small taste but wants it all. Like a virulent cancer it will spread to destroy everything. Their only choice now is to confess their sins, and fully join the fight to destroy the evil ones power base in Washington where the festering turd resides, or face the ever increasing righteous and mighty wrath of its customers, and the rest of the freedom loving world.

Jim Anderson (profile) says:

Credit where credit is due

It is apparent that the companies listed are late to the party. Most if not all of internet companies complied with NSA requests. But they really didn’t have much of a choice. Now their interests as companies coincide with a better legislation governing the spying. We have to keep a close eye to make sure this legislation is actually an improvement. Better late than never and sometimes business interests can coincide with a better future.

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