One of the most annoying parts of the Edward Snowden revelations isn’t what everyone is focused on. It isn’t that the NSA has been snooping on anyone and everyone they can. It isn’t that they seem to have their fingers in places that were once considered virtually impossible to hack. It isn’t even the poor resolve by politicians in Washington to really make a difference.
The most annoying part is that the tech companies who were in bed with the NSA such as Google, Facebook, and Verizon aren’t getting any of the heat that they deserve. This is the most alarming as well because it indicates that they weren’t willing to come out and protest until it went public. That means that when it happens again (and it will happen again in some form or fashion), they will be willing to participate as long as the government can prove that they’re being more careful about it.
They aren’t here to protect your data. They are here to protect their interests. When it became public that they willingly let the NSA into their data, that’s when they started crying fowl and not a moment before.
The NY Times ran an article today about how these companies are taking the steps necessary to try to prevent the NSA and other agencies from breaking into their servers to get data about the users. Without sounding too prone to conspiracy theories, I will tell you that all of this is a farce. It’s not real. Are they really bumping up security? Yes. Is it to keep the NSA out? Absolutely not.
The reason that they’re going through this process is definitely to improve security and keep other organizations and government agencies from making it into the data, but there’s no way they’re going to actually keep them out. In fact, this is a measure to gain the support of the US and world populations to convince them that the data is safe. It’s a PR move more than an actual protective move. When the dust settles and the right people are in place, they will let them right back in. It might not even be the NSA that gets the data, this time. It could be someone else, some other agency that is hidden deeper in the bowels of federal protections and secret operations. Regardless of who, the US government will soon be all over the data once again.
This is a concept that’s easy to dismiss. Why would the tech giants want to play ball? That question is easy to answer. The federal government can be a friend or it can be an enemy. None of these companies want the government to be an enemy, so they will participate. They might say it’s part of their patriotic duty to keep Americans and people around the world safe. They might say that it’s better for them to be able to monitor and regulate the monitors and regulators rather than to push them deeper and force them to get to the data in other ways.
Their goal is to say nothing. They don’t want anyone to know. They don’t want the next Edward Snowden to have a clue about what is happening. They don’t want this to get out to the press ever again.
They survived this round. The NSA is the sacrificial goat that is getting roasted over the fire as we speak and the tech giants that facilitated the activities snuck out the back door before anyone had a chance to pin the blame on them. They went to Washington and made speeches. They posted public condemnations and wore confused faces to pretend like they weren’t part of it all even when the news reported that they knew about it all along. We dismissed them, not because what they did wasn’t wrong but because the real focus was on the activities and intentions of the NSA rather than those who enabled the actions.
For the most part, nobody was hit with permanent damage. Even the NSA will bounce back. There are no stockholders to answer to, no voters that can take them out of office. They exist and there’s nothing that anyone can do about them. If the President declared that they were to disappear today it would take years to make it happen and the decision would eventually be reversed. Why? To answer that, we’d need to look at a line from A Few Good Men:
“You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.”
The NSA will continue in one form or another. If you chop off the head of the beast two more will pop up in its place. The tech giants know this and they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves first. They will publicly support the privacy of the people but somewhere deep within their server access system will be the US government snooping once again.
Don’t rely on them for privacy or protection. Don’t believe them when they say that you’re safe. Smaller companies that still have ideologies that expand beyond the shareholders will do what they can and are probably the safer bet. The safest bet – don’t use these services for anything that you wouldn’t want to post publicly. If it’s private, it shouldn’t leave your own virtual domain. If it’s on the internet or even on a computer that’s connected to the internet, you have to assume that it’s all compromised.