Government/Corporate Collusion in the War on Privacy

January 22, 2015
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Do you ever get the feeling that someone is looking over your shoulder and watching your every move? Do you feel like the government and corporations represent good cop/bad cop, except the good cop is bad and the bad cop is worse? Well, here is the bad news: Neither the government nor corporate America is looking out for your interests. Oh, and they really are looking over your shoulder every chance they get.

If you’re waiting on the good news, don’t read this op-ed on Heidi Boghosian; Corporate and Government Collusion– Spying on Democracy– Interview Transcript. There isn’t really any good news, there. But it is bad news that you absolutely need to know about.

Government Spying Hurts Customer Confidence

H.B.: Well the book sets out to show really the way that corporations really work with government intelligence agencies not only in conducting the figure people are using is about 70% of our intelligence, but that really we see corporations are acting as the long arm of the government for example they can conduct and do engage in meta data gathering, surveillance of various kinds that really the government would be in breach of the Fourth Amendment of The Constitution if they did it…

According to Heidi Boghosian, the government and the corporate sector are colluding to extract and exploit our personal data for their own purposes. There is a war on privacy being waged by governments, both domestic and foreign, and corporations against the American people. It seems the government and the corporate sector have found ways to partner with each other to harvest information about us that would, otherwise, be unconstitutional.

One such example of collusion is detailed in the Hemisphere Project that was reported in the New York Times in late 2013. It is a project where the government actually pays AT&T staff to work side by side in going through phone records that date as far back as 26 years according to Heidi.

Much of the personal information consumers freely give to companies ends up as metadata in the hands of the government. As Heidi puts it:

That information is then collected, harvested, by what we call data aggregators who can sell it to third parties including the U.S. government.  So the government in a way does an end run around of our constitutional rights in amassing various types of data

More recently, Edward Snowden leaked documents showing that the NSA intercepted routers and networking equipment headed overseas, and added backdoors. One might wonder how the NSA knew exactly when network equipment was being delivered, and which packages to intercept, as it could not have been all packages. Collusion is indicated at some level

On a business level, even if you are not knowingly in cahoots with the government, customers now think you are. This can be especially devastating if your clients and potential clients are overseas. In the same way, and for the same reasons Americans don’t want to use Chinese network equipment, overseas clients are leery about using U.S. products and services that collect and store sensitive information.

Spying Has a Chilling Effect

H.B.: Well you know we saw during Occupy really a vast coordination by different levels of government spear-headed really by the Department of Homeland Security in their working very closely with financial groups, banks, other industries to heighten the sense that ordinary protestors were potential terrorist threats.

By targeting protestors, the government is trying to silence voices of dissent. Does your business promote environmentalism or human rights? Do you take controversial stances, or find yourself on the side of issues unpopular with the political status quo? Then you might just be considered a ‘terrorist.’ And since you are highly suspect, the government feels like they have a special mandate to look into your affairs.

When people are being targeted by surveillance, it changes the way we behave. We will get a lot more politically correct to avoid being on a terrorist watch list. This is especially important if we are frequent flyers. It will change the tone and frequency of our dissenting opinions. And that is exactly the chilling effect they want to have.

Protect Your Data

H.B.: Well one of the things that I do mention and I do list in the book a number of organizations both legal and sort of public policy, I mention the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they’re a wonderful group that has a great website, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is another one that you can go to and read up on various technology related ways the government is monitoring us and things that you can do.

There is no one solution for such a big problem. Government spying and collusion has already hurt consumer confidence, and has already created a chilling effect that changes the way some do business. The best thing you can do is protect yourself and latch down the hatches. Like it or not, the war on privacy is coming to you. Be prepared.

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