The advertising blitz began this morning. The major tech players, PRISM-related or not, created a blandly-named campaign (Reform Government Surveillance) and took out ads in a number of major newspapers, all asking that the NSA stop doing what the NSA does (hacking into the companies' databases, bulk data collection, use secret courts, etc.), reports The Wall Street Journal.
The roster of freedom fighters? It includes a Who's Who of alleged PRISM-participants (AOL, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!) and Twitter, the company that wasn't popular enough to be invited to the spy party.
We doubt the NSA will notice the request, however. They've apparently been too busy playing MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games). Apparently, there's terrorism afoot in Azeroth.
PR or Reform Battle?
Call us cynical, but a single-page website and a few newspaper ads don't amount to much of a mea culpa for companies that were allegedly feeding data to the government without speaking up for years.
Of course, they were silenced by secret court orders, but fair or not, their credibility with consumers is shot. A few ads helps, as do encryption efforts and battles for court transparency, but it'll be awhile before we feel completely secure storing sensitive data on these companies' servers.
Nonetheless, this is a start. The RGS Coalition is asking governments, including our own, to:
- Limit governments' authority to collect users' information (no more bulk data collection);
- Create checks and balances for information requests, including an independent and adversarial court;
- Transparency reports on the number of requests made, prepared by companies and the government;
- Allow free-flow of data cross borders (no more censoring or blocking foreign sites);
- Create an international system of laws (a treaty) to govern data requests across jurisdictions.
They're all great ideas -- and ideas we've heard before, from legislative reform proposals and other sources. The companies' attempt to push reform would've rang a bit less hollow had they not been beaten to the punch by, well, everyone.
Meanwhile, in a Secret Location
We also learned today that the NSA doesn't spend all of its time monitoring your email, phone, and social media accounts -- it also takes the time to play (and monitor) games!
Yep, apparently the NSA, fearful of clandestine terrorist activities or suicide bombings (Leeroy Jenkins!) being planned in online gaming forums, assigned agents to play games and conduct surveillance. They even had enough agents on the job that they had to set up procedures to ensure that they weren't snooping on themselves, reports Engadget.
Your government. Hard at work.
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- NSA Lies Again: Are They Tracking Your Cell Phone's Movements? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
- NSA Phone Tracking is Even More Extensive Than We Thought (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
- FindLaw's Legal Technology Center (FindLaw)