If anyone has any doubts that Edward Snowden personally blew a hole in the dam of the U.S. government’s surveillance state, consider this article on Bloomberg. This is a conventional media site. It is mainstream to the core. Yet here is what it has reported.
Imagine the government passed a law requiring all citizens to carry a tracking device. Such a law would immediately be found unconstitutional. Yet we all carry mobile phones.
If the National Security Agency required us to notify it whenever we made a new friend, the nation would rebel. Yet we notify Facebook Inc. (FB) If the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanded copies of all our conversations and correspondence, it would be laughed at. Yet we provide copies of our e-mail to Google Inc. (GOOG), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) or whoever our mail host is; we provide copies of our text messages to Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), AT&T Inc. (T) and Sprint Corp. (S); and we provide copies of other conversations to Twitter Inc., Facebook, LinkedIn (LNKD) Corp. or whatever other site is hosting them.
The primary business model of the Internet is built on mass surveillance, and our government’s intelligence-gathering agencies have become addicted to that data. Understanding how we got here is critical to understanding how we undo the damage.
Computers and networks inherently produce data, and our constant interactions with them allow corporations to collect an enormous amount of intensely personal data about us as we go about our daily lives. Sometimes we produce this data inadvertently simply by using our phones, credit cards, computers and other devices. Sometimes we give corporations this data directly on Google, Facebook, Apple Inc.’s iCloud and so on in exchange for whatever free or cheap service we receive from the Internet in return.
The NSA is also in the business of spying on everyone, and it has realized it’s far easier to collect all the data from these corporations rather than from us directly. In some cases, the NSA asks for this data nicely. In other cases, it makes use of subtle threats or overt pressure. If that doesn’t work, it uses tools like national security letters.
The result is a corporate-government surveillance partnership, one that allows both the government and corporations to get away with things they couldn’t otherwise.
There is no way that anything like this would have been published by Bloomberg three months ago. Snowden provided the evidence. This blew the hole in the dam. The dam is beginning to crack.
The American public is now aware of what has taken place. The government’s attempt to paint Snowden as a traitor is not working. A recent poll reveals that well over half of the voters think Snowden is a whistle-blower, not a traitor.
The NSA is on the defensive. It has never before gotten this much negative publicity.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were right. They wrote the script in 1996.