SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 27, 2013

Our view: There is no online privacy

Much has been made in recent weeks — and rightly so — about the government’s monitoring of phone calls and Internet connections.

Largely lost in the discussion of such data mining is this reality: The government’s activities pale in comparison to those of the tech giants that provide such services.

At least as described so far, the feds are focused on connections — who is talking to whom. The tech firms — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and others — are interested in the content, which they slice and dice and use themselves and sell to others.

They know who you are, where you are, that your daughter wore a red bikini at the lake last weekend and that you’re considering buying a new car.

And they intend to use that knowledge to add to their wealth. At least the government’s purpose — again, at least as known to date — is the less selfish goal of preserving the public’s safety.

Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat who chairs a subcommittee on privacy issues, has said that the tech giants increasingly view their users less as customers and more as product.

Tech’s apologists say that’s overblown, that competition will keep them in line: If you don’t trust Google with your search results, you can use Bing or Yahoo. But the problem with that argument is that they’re all doing the same thing.

The Instagram dustup last December is worth keeping in mind. The photo-sharing site (owned by Facebook) laid claim to ownership of everything posted there, including the right to use photos in ads without compensation or even notification. It quickly retreated under a hail of protest — but its announcement made it clear that Instagram wasn’t surrendering for all time.

The tech giants expect our sense of privacy, and our demand that it be respected, to continue to erode. Indeed, they are banking on it.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium