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By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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NSA vs Google

Uploaded: Aug 12, 2013
Personal privacy is a huge matter of interest right now, thanks mainly to Edward Snowden, who leaked NSA information, and the PFC recently convicted who turned over a great deal of data to Wikileaks.

What about Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and the many other major internet companies that capture tons of information about all of us, even though most of us don't know it.

I am struggling to find a distinction.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by forever is a long time, a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

You opt in to google, etc.. Last I looked, I never okay'd the government to track all my movement, calls and email. The FISA court is a rubber stamp, rarely declines government requests. Something like a 1% decline rate.

And we know the invisible hand of the free market never does wrong.


Well, I am dead set against the government siphoning all google, FB, social net, and bank info going to the government through the backdoors left open by those companies. And everything they suck up off the internet, including through the vacuum up in SF off of Howard (room 641A.)

Question for the inevitable NSA/MUST-have-security-at-any-cost defenders: where is the line? What shouldn't the govt be allowed to do?

Drones that see thru walls? listen to your calls? with or without warrant? Track your college daughter because once she called to order pizza in a visit to NYC, and an Afghan immigrant delivered her pizza once upon a time? Therefore she's a "link"?


I'll wait.

Until then: "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Posted by Trust-Must-Be-Earned, a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm

> I am struggling to find a distinction.

Probably because none of us have enough information about what the NSA, or Google, is doing with all that information.

The NSA claims to be protecting the country.

Google claims to be making money for themselves, and its stockholders.

Google is unaccountable, at least at the moment. So-it?s possible Google is in a position to harm people in any number of ways, if it wanted to.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

There is some hope of control or regulation in the government sphere, where there is none in the private space.

The former NSA head came out yesterday and said this will grow in unknown and unspecified ways, and you can bet it is going to be expanded over time - and probably already has.

I see the problem here as who has access to this data and what do they use it for.

There is good reason to keep this data around for a while ... and good reason to allow its use in criminal or terrorist investigations, but at the same time, think of this - how will we ever have another whistleblower ever ... we are going to cut off that whole area of possibility even if we need it. Who can make a phone call anonymously when all sorts of data can be compiled and searched and the person identified and found? Who can send data?

If we are going to give government and business these capabiities we need to be able to regulate them and that they cannot be used by government or business illegally without harsh penalties.

As an IT professional to me this looks like something that will never be sorted out even given 100 years or more, the technology gets more complex and the average education of the citizen gets worse ... and that means a very problematic diversion for our society.

I wonder if in a way this goes not beg for something like of global government or loose global confederacy to begin to unify and standardized countries, rights and who are the bad guys so that people's rights are very specific.

When I was a kid we all thought the threat of nuclear war was as bad as things could get ... now we have this, and it coincides with a lot of other problems converging such as clash political idealogies, collapse of environment, global warming - and we refuse to use the things we have going for us, which mostly is automation and economies of scale in order to protect private ownership and wealth of companies so big that the meaning of the concept is blurred.

A horrible time in history in my opinion.

Posted by forever is a long time, a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm

"Google is unaccountable" Wrong. Use Bing, Yahoo, or one of the anonymous search engines. While they're still around.

Google SHOULD face strong anti-trust oversight, but that ain't gonna happen, except in Europe. (sorry - off topic)

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Think about this possibility. The ability to listen to people's phone calls and see their internet activity means that a lot of people working on inventions or creative works can have their IP viewed and possibly stolen.

It's happened before, but with power like this the intellectual power of the population can be "farmed" for the benefit of anyone who knows how to access this information. Insider trading can come out of nowhere. If you find Warren Buffet's email address and phone number some bad actor could influence the global economy.

Anymore I don't see that it matters much in reality whether it is private or public since the public is being swallowed up and eaten by the private sector, what is conspicuous is the SEGREGATION of the public, which is in a way just like the segregation of black people in the south only harder to see and a bit more broad to include plenty of people most of the rest of us do not care about.

With OS holes in your computers, tablets and phones you have just what George Orwell predicted, a society where you every move is watched and computed against a database of behavior tuned to be safe and not sorry in terms of terrorism, or is that any political threat of democracy.

As the economy verticalizes and the tax base erodes, as long as we keep tax rates low on the super rich and do not tax capital, there is no money for anything. meaning the whole economy is going to have to be taken over to manage it, be it by public or private hands- how does it matter. And as long as it is hidden and unproveable, who can oppose it. This is a bad precedent.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

It's in the interests of government and big business to minimize this discussion or claim all is well and their actions are harmless.
I prefer transparency and accountability, but I am not confident of that with either the big deal stuff or the minor privacy stuff.
Isn't it a federal crime to steal U.S. mail, meaning someone's letters, and read the contents (well aside from identity theft, like getting ahold of someone's credit card info by opening snail mail and using it). Yet -- people are ok with huge, faceless businesses, one's employer, and/or the government reading all their email contents, searches, posts, likes? Odd how some have been conditioned to accept this. I am concerned about it and do NOT share everything about myself and my life online as some so do so blithely and naively.
I am uncomfortable with massive businesses like Google being so close with the Administration.
I worry about targeting of political enemies through the masses of information that can be obtained by power-hungry bad guys in government. We already have both a gotcha press and a coverup press, when convenient to the news outlet and their political leanings.
I think anyone accessing our info ought to be opt-in, yet we KNOW that isn't the case.
Even when the subject of our personal, private, confidential info is mentioned, which isn't as often as it should be, we are "assured" that it is secure. Then - just wait until the next news story of a breach of security...some huge business is hacked, someone walks off with a laptop at the nearby medical center/hospital and WHO KNOWS about the federal government and how they will secure our medical info. Oh, just take a leap of faith that they know what they are doing.
I even complain about relatively harmless stuff that irritates rather than harms, such as doing a search on behalf of a relative/their needs or interest and then getting barraged with online ads for that item which is not for me nor will I ever be interested in buying it in future, YET I am labeled (let's say, elderly) and subjected to constant insistent ads for it/related things AND Google leads gets to charge that advertiser for a supposed eyeball count of whatever they call it IF by accident I supposedly "roll over it with my cursor" even though I try very hard not to do so.
Online advertising is getting awfully offensive. Huge pop up video ads are atrocious.
Politicians make weak, half-hearted attempts to assist us consumers/citizens, but big business steamrollers right over those efforts. I think there have been some proposals in the California legislature to safeguard personal privacy and they were lobbied against in a hurry by the powerful interests...

Posted by Trust-Must-Be-Earned, a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm

> When I was a kid we all thought the threat of nuclear war was as
> bad as things could get ... now we have this

Oh, Pleezzeee. The threat of thermo-nuclear war/destruction of most of the civilized world is a hellava lot worse than this. Various sources claim that the power of one Polaris submarine, circa 1980, was sufficient to destroy about 3/4s of the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union, at the time. And the same was said about the Soviet nuclear submarine capability. And on top of that?there about 25,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled, in the arsenals of the five, or six, countries that that developed these weapons.

This data collection is a bit of a mess?but if someone just powered down the server farms where the data is being collected/stored, then we could stop worrying about it. Radically different than having to dis-assemble the MAD machine.

Get a grip!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of ,
on Aug 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I did not say they were equal threats, but they both are threats to the Constitution and our way of life. Gee, you seem like you want to jump on something so bad - maybe you need to get the grip.

Posted by Trust-Must-Be-Earned, a resident of ,
on Aug 13, 2013 at 9:08 am

> but they both are threats to the Constitution and our way of life

Not even close.

At the moment, we still don't fully understand just how much information the NSA is collecting, or what they are doing with it.
At the most, there might be some conflicts with the 4th Amendment, but not the whole Constitution. Of course, there is something often talked about--which is the spirit of the Constitution, which heavily involves the concept of limited government.

Recently, someone said that the NSA was tracking 1 million people of interest, or bad guys. The news source didn't mention in what countries these people might be. I suspect none of us would be offended at these techniques being used on these people who might well be living in other countries--if there were any evidence that they were actually actively involved in terror activities, or planning.

I'd like to see more oversight by people who are not elected politicians, but legitimate data science/terrorism experts. I'd also like to have a clear explanation as to why so much data needs to be collected? There has to be a reason. I'm sure we all would like to know what it is.

I'd also like to know more about any safeguards to our rights that are in place inside the NSA's decision making process.

I'd like to know what our elected officials are doing to ensure that the NSA is operating in our best interests. Right now, we haven't really heard too much from them.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of ,
on Aug 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

In today's world you cannot just look at "at the moment" technology and software goes so fast that you've already missed the target is that is what you are looking at. The fact that the public does not know what's going on is secondary to the fact that they do not know how to interpret it and are probably 20 years behind means there is roughly 20 years gap that gets wider every year in terms of the public/government coming to terms with this and getting it under control. It's not likely to happen, particularly because of the consumer and financial sector data.

They are collecting and will collect as much data as they can because you never know where additional values lies in the data you look at and what you can squeeze out of it.

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