and it won’t be long before the government is forced to follow the lead of the internet companies in this, and others.
If that weren’t enough, the internet companies have also made their money by selling data to governments. There’s some pretty fascinating discussion going on at the European Parliament now about the privacy implications of that.
(The following image is an illustration from an article in the London Sunday Times.) A lot of the internet companies are already using this data to track what citizens are doing , and this has been a key part of the surveillance agenda of the surveillance state since it began . The NSA has made clear it has a lot of interest in what citizens are doing on the internet. And it’s not just the “Big Brother” world. Google, Microsoft and Facebook are all working together in their own way. Google already has a division, called the Internet Archive, which archives the very earliest of the internet’s sites.
( Google CEO Larry Page gave some evidence against a proposal to place the NSA’s data snooping in a better data retention regime. It would have required Google to put some rules into place, which would have required more retention of users’ data when they are no longer in use, but the company argued that their own system was more secure. Google and the NSA can’t speak to each other directly, but the comments are interesting.) The internet companies also have a long history of making money by selling a range of information. (It’s interesting to note that Google makes more money by selling adverts that you see, as opposed to by selling advertising that you don’t.) This has been good business for them over recent years. One of the main purposes of Google’s Google Shopping project was to make the data it collects to be much more targeted, which is good for the company. Amazon has made similar data-driven changes that it is applying to its website, by tracking your browsing data as you move around the web. The biggest internet companies have also made a lot of money from selling and collecting data to the government. As Paul Sperry noted for the National Review - The National Security Agency gathers vast amounts of data on Americans, including Internet searches, financial records, cell phone records, and online visits. The government has even used the NSA to plant bugs in a room full of private computers, where it installed a recording device that would continuously record the contents of anyone’s voice, and thereby record who and what they’re talking about. If you have a digital device, the NSA can “tag” it. At the moment, the NSA collects a vast amount of data on what you own or own products and services you use. But there has been a huge shift by companies to make that data more targeted, and put the record of what you do into machines and databases that it can process rather than a public web of data. This information is not really necessary to the use of the internet - the kind of information it gathered was necessary if you wanted to do anything complicated. But the rise of smartphones on the web has made it important for businesses. In order to market a product to consumers, the company has to know in advance what that consumer wants. If you have a tablet that is about to be updated, you can’t buy it until such time that people who are interested in that product want it because they can predict what it is that users are going to do - something that was not true before. This means that a smart device has to be better at doing this. The big internet companies have built the infrastructure that allows all their data to travel in real time to the servers where it is combined. We can’t expect that these companies will suddenly stop this activity when we say we don’t want our privacy. But then what? Would consumers simply stop using the products they have been offered? The web has already shown us that if we don’t like being tracked and recorded all the time, we can turn off data collection. To put the issue into perspective, this isn’t new. When I was growing up, even TV did have internet connections. But that was in the seventies, when you didn’t have smart phones to track and record. One of the reasons that’s happened is because the internet companies have taken advantage of this technology so much. This would be the same if they didn’t have access to the internet. (We aren’t able to opt out of the data collection by data companies… but we can say NO to a lot of the activities the data companies provide us with, and it’ll show on our phone bill.)
Some of these companies are going to suffer from all this data collection. I do think they will fight hard to keep their information away from US government prying eyes, because it is important for them to be the only people on the internet to have access to the kinds of data that would let them see who else is using the internet, as well as what other businesses are using it. And they can say that they are providing a