Time to protect consumer privacy

Some of the biggest names in the tech world joined forces Monday to tell Uncle Sam that enough’s

Quit spying on their customers.

According to the LA Times, “AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo said in an open letter to President Obama that in light of recent revelations about the National Security Agency snooping

imgres on websites and communications networks, there’s an “urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide.”

“That’s a pretty bold claim to the moral high ground considering that each of these companies routinely mines customer data for their own purposes (read: profit)

And then there’s AT&T, which made clear in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it will keep complying with government requests for customer records “to the extent required by law.”

“Moreover, the telecom giant said the company shouldn’t have to come clean with shareholders about helping the feds peek into people’s lives. This stuff is top secret, AT&T said, so it has no obligation to address the issue at its annual shareholder meeting this spring. The company’s letter was a response to calls from the ACLU of Northern California and other groups for phone companies to be more upfront about their dealings with the NSA. The private sector always has had a troubled relationship with consumer privacy. On the one hand, companies insist that they take such issues very seriously and do their utmost to be responsible stewards of customers’ personal data. On the other, they’re not stupid. In-depth data about where we shop, what we buy, whom we communicate with and how we behave is a marketing treasure trove. Businesses benefit both from exploiting this information for their own purposes and selling it to others. Consumer data is arguably the single most valuable commodity in the corporate world. This is why it needs to be safeguarded and regulated like any other financial commodity. More on that in a moment. Many people probably would agree with the Silicon Valley heavyweights that the feds have gone too far in bending information technology to their own ends.”


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