Friday, October 11, 2013

All In a Day's Business

Trey Smith

Big Bro is watching you. Inside your mobile phone and hidden behind your web browser are little known software products marketed by contractors to the government that can follow you around anywhere. No longer the wide-eyed fantasies of conspiracy theorists, these technologies are routinely installed in all of our data devices by companies that sell them to Washington for a profit.

That’s not how they’re marketing them to us, of course. No, the message is much more seductive: Data, Silicon Valley is fond of saying, is the new oil. And the Valley’s message is clear enough: we can turn your digital information into fuel for pleasure and profits -- if you just give us access to your location, your correspondence, your history, and the entertainment that you like.

Ever played Farmville? Checked into Foursquare? Listened to music on Pandora? These new social apps come with an obvious price tag: the annoying advertisements that we believe to be the fee we have to pay for our pleasure. But there’s a second, more hidden price tag -- the reams of data about ourselves that we give away. Just like raw petroleum, it can be refined into many things -- the high-octane jet fuel for our social media and the asphalt and tar of our past that we would rather hide or forget.

We willingly hand over all of this information to the big data companies and in return they facilitate our communications and provide us with diversions. Take Google, which offers free email, data storage, and phone calls to many of us, or Verizon, which charges for smartphones and home phones. We can withdraw from them anytime, just as we believe that we can delete our day-to-day social activities from Facebook or Twitter.

But there is a second kind of data company of which most people are unaware: high-tech outfits that simply help themselves to our information in order to allow U.S. government agencies to dig into our past and present. Some of this is legal, since most of us have signed away the rights to our own information on digital forms that few ever bother to read, but much of it is, to put the matter politely, questionable.

This second category is made up of professional surveillance companies. They generally work for or sell their products to the government -- in other words, they are paid with our tax dollars -- but we have no control over them.
~ from The Data Hackers: Mining Your Information for Big Brother by Pratap Chatterjee ~
As the Snowden revelations have come out, it has been laughable to watch the likes of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others fall all over themselves trying to convince the public that they weren't actively involved in the government's vast surveillance apparatus. On several occasions, they have painted themselves as mere innocent bystanders. This defies credulity for one reason and one reason only: MONEY!!

Just like with the defense industry, helping the government to spy on Americans means mega profits. Why should Verizon, Amazon or Facebook care about constitutional violations, when there is big money to be had? Remember, the corporate world is amoral and, if the federal government itself is more than willing to trample on people's right, why would big business object?

As we all should know by now, government and corporations enjoy a symbiotic relationship -- They feed off of each other. Both are in the business of trying to control the masses. Consequently, it should not astound anyone that they are working together to create an all-encompassing web to track everything we say, do and think. The government desires this level of control to quell dissent and to retain power. Corporations, on the other hand, do it for an even more basic reason: greed.  And their greed helps to keep the government in power.

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