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Does our government have too much power over our mobile and internet data?

NSA-Building

We are communicating faster, better and more often than ever before. We can thank the internet and mobile communications for most of that, but with such power we must also be more careful. Laws on the matter are still evolving, making our internet/cellphone data the most valuable source of information for our government (and all others across the world).

If you think about it, our smartphones and computers know everything about us. More so than even your spouse, sometimes. It holds the secret websites you would never tell anyone you visit, it stores all your conversations, your friends contact details, your financial information and much more. It’s your whole life… in the cloud.

Government vs. internet

obamaSo, does the government have too much power over our data? It sure does. This is why 8 of the biggest tech companies in the world have gotten together to fight against the NSA’s surveillance programs. Such companies include Google, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn. The government is not talking to kids here, these are the big guys in the playground.

These tech giants have put together an open letter directed at President Obama and the Congress, which will be published on Monday, December 10th on national print ads. The tech industry is not taking it lightly. You can learn more about the letter and its request at the Reform Government Surveillance site.

What do we want?!

You can read all the details at the Reform Government Surveillance site, but here are the main points:

  • Limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information
  • Oversight and accountability
  • Transparency about government demands
  • Respecting the free flow of information
  • Avoiding conflicts among governments

I believe the idea here is that the government and law enforcements have too much un-monitored control over our data. No one is stopping them or controlling their surveillance. Google and all other companies understand that people’s security is important and the government needs some form of access to data. Transparency and privacy are important as well, though.

Law enforcement vs. mobile/internet

android-police

And all of these worries are not in vain. Some people may think we are over-hyping the issue but there are tangible numbers we must consider. Senator Edward J. Markey recently requested information on law enforcement data requests to cellphone carriers.

It’s impressive to find out USA law enforcement agencies requested information from carriers over 1.1 MILLION times in 2012. What is the problem with that? The police many times doesn’t even need a warrant to access our information. Many times they even ask for “Tower Dumps”, in which they request all cellphone interaction in with certain towers, during a set period of time.

The solution

Of course, it will take time for all these matters to be fixed. The letter to Obama and the Congress is a great move to get the government’s attention. They need to realize this is an important matter and not just a passing phase. As for law enforcement and mobile data – Senator Markey is working on passing legislation to force law enforcement to have a probable cause warrant before tapping into carriers’ data.

The future of internet/mobile privacy is uncertain. The big guys are asking the government for better privacy while many of us (the citizens) ask for more privacy from all companies and organizations. Information is power – and all these companies are VERY powerful.

[Reform Government Surveillance, New York Times]




  • David Rhiley

    yes

  • guitarist5122

    The government has to much power and control over everything. End of story

  • ShirtlessKirk

    The question should be: Does the government have too much access to our mobile and internet data? To which the answer is “yes”.

    The answer to the original question is “no”, because they merely have copies and don’t control it.

    • Droidanomix

      So you think.

  • Subzer0

    the answer is simple… we kill the batman.

    • Robb Nunya

      Good luck with that. Probably easier to fix the government. :D

  • CerealFTW

    I’m not worried about the government looking through data to catch criminals as much as I’m concerned about the possibilities of what they can do with being able to get warrants without reason

    • Droidanomix

      You should be worried. They’re not collecting information to catch criminals. It’s to keep tabs on the citizenry. It’s become “guilty until proven innocent.”

      • CerealFTW

        I didn’t say I wasn’t worried. I was saying I’m more worried about what they can if they don’t need probable cause to gain warrants

  • leocal79

    There is a reason we don’t allow multiple use warrants we fought the revolutionary war because of it. It gives all the power to the government and strips all the power from the people. So yes this is a huge problem.

    • Droidanomix

      Finally someone who knows what the hell he’s talking about.

  • Droidanomix

    Yes.

  • Jarl

    if the government can’t control all of the internet, they can’t control it at all, therefore, nothing will change…. ?

    this “outcry” for the protection of privacy is coming from the companies who make it their business to know everything there is to know about us… ?

  • Hrethgir

    It isn’t just data, it’s everything, the government has too much power and needs to be reigned in a LOT.

    • leocal79

      Agreed the government is supposed to defend, protect us and oversee state activity not overrun the states and force stuff down our throats they work for us not vise versa

  • WhoaManWtF

    The American government has far too much power in many aspect of the
    world, it is an increasingly out-dated and prejudiced system that
    needs to be reworked. The government is so far corrupted at this
    point that I am not sure there is a simple way to “fix” it.

    • techlte

      I have a start.. Get the private money/influence out of politics. Get representatives of both the congress and the senate accustom to doing their job and not spending all their time fundraising. Set reasonable term limits so that these 10+ year veterans finally become extinct. Reconsider the position and/or role of the lobbyist and further, the legality.

      Some of these things would be a start IMO.. I like to think a similar framework would allow for correction, allow us to fix all these injustices we’ve been suffering for so long.

      • leocal79

        I agree anyone circling the capital with money special interest should be fine severely then jailed for 6 months and then jailed for a long time. No more of this crop and we need term limits back in place. These jobs weren’t meant for lifelong positions. Senators, congressmen shouldn’t be dying in their position at 90+years old. Look at Biden 40+ years without a real job ever.

      • scoter man1

        Part of the problem is, no one can overthrow it now. They’d just kill/detain the people that were rallying and laugh. I bet it wouldn’t even make the news.

        • Guillaume

          That’s what everyone said before all the revolutions. Then, revolutions happen. You can’t kill/detain 10 millions people when there is an uprising.

          • WhoaManWtF

            Our goverment can though, they are ridiculously powerful, and hell bent on holding onto that power.

        • Aaron Mayeux

          they will send in the U.N. and foreign troops.

      • Robb Nunya

        You have it backward. Take the power out of the hands of government and the private influence will decide it isn’t worth it to try and “convince” politicians of anything. If government is powerless to do much of anything, they won’t be worth the effort. Madison had it right.

    • JBrowne1012

      The problem will soon have a solution once people get tired of the monster they left rampant on our lives…. The government is effing crazy yet, it is our own faults because we appoint these fools into power. We further advocate this crap because a lot of simpletons have the mindset of “oh I’m not affected so why care if I had nothing to hide” but its not about that but about the principle of the matter. We are losing privacy because we are allowing it soon america will be nothing more and the constitution will mean nothing.

      • WhoaManWtF

        Do you really believe that it matters who is appointed into office at this point? They are just the face, a facade if you will they have no true power they are just the one the powers at be use to blame when there is a social uprising. They “fix” the problem by allowing a new elected official into office but it is still just a puppet, that is why nothing changes.

    • Aaron Mayeux

      it’s not out dated. the problem is we didn’t stick to the plan(constitution)

      • Big_EZ

        This is it. We let the government take little by little, the government no longer works as it was setup. It now works exactly like our ancestors tried to prevent, and fought for freedom against.

        • Aaron Mayeux

          exactly. all you hear is this talk of Democracy. We are not a democracy (well we are now), we were set up as a constitutional republic. A democracy is mob rule or 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. constitutional republics protect the rights of the minority.

          the checks and balances of gov. are dissolving as we speak, and the 4th branch of government(media) has been bought and paid for for years now.

  • Tojen1981

    Its a noble cause, but the majority of people out there don’t care or understand what they’re asking when they want the government to make this a safer world. You want more protection provided by the government, you have to give them more power. Until the people stop begging the government for help on all fronts in their lives and accept that this is a dangerous world filled with risk, this will always be a problem.

    • Crimsonshadow774

      Amen brother. Its time we take responsibility for ourselves and quit begging the government to do everything.

      • Aaron Mayeux

        what the government gives, they can take away. or lose in a financial collapse LOL

    • Big_EZ

      The thing they don’t realize is that the government is the biggest threat of all.

  • Crimsonshadow774

    Our government has too much power over everything…

    • Big_EZ

      Much of what they do is unlawful and unconstitutional, but who is going to stop them. The Supreme Court has ruled many times that they are not violating the constitution, but anyone who can read (and has read the constitution) knows this is bs.

      • Aaron Mayeux

        congress is becoming irrelevant now that Obama is using executive orders and directing departments like a dictator.

  • Jiro K

    Nothing is accidental the government is run by big business the thing is tech is now one of the those big businesses looking to get they’re way. The only reason they care is because we are to Google what oil is to bp and right now this is what we care about

  • J Cav the Great

    Fu¢k the government!!!

    -America

  • Marcel Jeannin II

    Too much to everything I wish they would just shut down.

  • ArmageddonX

    I know I’m the exception, but I could really care less if the Government wants to track my every move. If they want to read my text messages with my stupid jokes or see my email recipes for chili. Go for it! I dont care.

    • Guillaume

      “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. ” – Desmond Tutu

    • Aaron Mayeux

      until they make stupid jokes “hate crimes” or chili “unfit for consumption” then you’ll be jailed for life. Get it?

    • http://www.newportessentials.com/ paco cornholio

      I’m tempted to agree with you. Outside of a mild speeding I abide by the law. I behave as if everyone will find out everything anyway, to avoid hurting people and to sleep well at night. So what do I care if police or government agencies know everything I do? Might even help me out if I’m falsely accused.

      The trouble is that legal standards change in unpredictable ways, there are so many (sometimes conflicting) laws that nobody is every really clean, and people can damage you with information about even legal behaviors, even if it’s only by association with some acquaintance who send you a racist email or joked that he was going to run over his neighbor’s dog.

      Today we have South Texas sheriffs who are impounding and selling the cars of poor tourists caught speeding just a little bit on their roads. Tomorrow we will have sheriffs everywhere telling you about your kid’s porn viewing while they solicit you for donations to the widows and orphans fund. “Nothing wrong, sir, but leaks do happen.”

      Think about how worthy political challengers will be intimidated out of running for office, or about how bidders for government contracts will be intimidated into withdrawing competitive bids.

      I’m glad the NSA is able to find this information, but it’s critically important to have good oversight and transparency into when they do it.

    • Robb Nunya

      Spoken like a future victim of tyranny.

  • john velasquez

    prez Obama promised the most transparent ran administration in history but it been the most secretive and intrusive with the NSA and the IRS to silence his critics and opponents.

  • Rob Schoenfeld

    Old republics with old ideas. Older fossils way past there time holding on to every last gasp of power before they die. Once the shiny bright hope of freedom with out prosecution and persecution. We are the old the dying and the crumbling. Eden has fallen and the gods are weeping.

  • Robb Nunya

    I understand that government has a need to be able to tap into our stuff. That’s OK as long as they do it in the right fashion.

    1> No secret courts whatsoever. I don’t care who’s being watched.
    2> No general warrants. This is exceptionally Noxious, and one of the main reasons the 4th was written.
    3> No 3 hop warrants (In other words, person A is a suspect, so they hit him, all of his friends, all of their friends, and all of THEIR friends… Could result in hundreds of thousands of people being tapped in order to see 1 person)
    4> Each and every person of note needs to be looked at only after an actual search warrant has been provided, and not just rubber-stamped by a court (Hello FISA)