Who has your back?

Who has your back?

Summary: What do Apple, AT&T, Myspace, Verizon and Yahoo! have in common? Little regard for protecting their customers from governmental abuse of power.


With great storage comes great responsibility

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published its third annual report (pdf) on online privacy and transparency on government access to your data. The EFF looked at 18 online companies and their policies across six criteria:

  • Require a warrant for content of communications

  • Tell users about government data requests

  • Publish transparency reports

  • Publish law enforcement guidelines

  • Fight for users' privacy rights in courts

  • Fight for users' privacy in Congress.

Not everyone has to defend a user before a judge, but the EFF wanted to acknowledge those that do. Requiring a warrant is a new category, but warrants aren't a legal requirement in much of America.

Let's go to the EFF's summary graphic:

EFF Summary Chart
(Image: EFF)

The Storage Bits take

Human beings are imperfect, especially when it comes to wielding power over others. That's why constitutional protections are important.

Major online service providers can afford to, if they wish, go toe-to-toe with the government to protect their users from abuse of governmental power. Individuals — as the case of Aaron Swartz reminds us — don't have the resources of corporate "persons" to defend against governmental overreach.

Let's hear it for companies like Twitter, which actively work to protect us. And let's encourage other tech powerhouses, like Amazon and Apple, to support their customers. It's good for their business and good for America.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topics: Storage, Amazon, Apple, Google, Government, Security

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  • In the end...

    ...users have to look after their own interests and make the market work for them. Government can and should help; and vendors should look after the interests of their customers, not just their stockholders; but neither has any real incentive to do so unless ordinary citizens and consumers are proactive.
    John L. Ries
    • Simple one-liners are good for Dr Phil, not for reality

      So you've never heard of a "class action lawsuit"? And what happens if/when those get banned? ;)
      Oh, where were the people supervising the building in Bangladesh that collapsed and killed hundreds?

      How many examples that quickly trash your cozy cant will you need to read before you realize how ineffective that philosophy is?

      Especially as its creator, Ayn Rand, became a hypocrite and partook in social security and medicare - hiding behind her husband's surname - when real life got in her way...

      And Occupy Wall Street is one example of customers forming a group looking out for their interests (with some exceptions, but given the raw size, it was inevitable some miscreants would be there...)
      • You're arguing with the wrong person

        I actually believe in activist government.
        John L. Ries
        • To elaborate

          While I think that Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand were just as much false prophets as were Marx, Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler; it is nevertheless the case that both democracy and the free market work only to the extent that people make them work. The notion that the public interest will be served automatically just because everybody looks after his own is a myth; but so is the notion that democracy will automatically serve the public interest in the face of an ignorant, apathetic citizenry.

          The objections of the "republica non democratia" fraternity are noted.
          John L. Ries
    • P.S. the market forces controlling the market,

      which are the big companies in case you hadn't noticed, certainly won't let the little common man control a thing. What makes you believe, or - worse - think, that they somehow will give you an even break? Anything that hurts their ability to profit is the issue here, ethics and fairness or any other evolved or civilized concept goes off the table.
  • Two ZDnet articles on same report

    This is the better one.
  • given that these companies lobby government out of their own

    self-interest and benefit (AT&T gets lots of corporate welfare, even in return for layoffs that built up their "profit" - Citizens for Tax Justice being a great resource for lots of corporate welfare anti-free market companies)

    Government is bought and paid for and companies would rather rip off customers at every turn...

    That's not a total truism, since there are exceptions