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Fight Fire With Fire

Entry 1604, on 2013-12-10 at 22:32:30 (Rating 3, Computers)

I think there is little doubt that big corporations have a lot of influence in American politics and protecting their interests is surely one of the major reasons the US has increased its surveillance efforts around the world. Sure, the official excuse of suppressing terrorism is also a factor, but I think the NSA is more there for economic rather than military reasons.

So it has been an accepted fact for decades now that corporations have too much political power and yet nothing has been done. The reason is obvious: political success in most western countries (and especially the US which is often said to have the "best democracy money can buy") requires a lot of money and corporates are the obvious source. So to be successful a political party needs a lot of funding from corporate sources who will naturally want something in return.

Maybe the answer is to "fight fire with fire" and to fight excess corporate power with different corporate power with contrary views. And that seems to be what has happened because a coalition including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo has published an open letter and created a web site to fight the draconian new spying laws.

There are a couple of issues regarding this action which I should briefly discuss here...

First, these companies aren't necessarily opposing these rules for the right reason. In several articles I have seen it suggested that they oppose the laws for commercial rather than moral reasons. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about that because morality seems to be a dirty word in the corporate world, but maybe that doesn't matter so much. Maybe the more important point is what they are doing rather than why they are doing it. And doing the right thing for the wrong reason is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Second, this doesn't mean that excessive corporate power is a good thing. These corporations do have power and on this occasion they are using it for a good cause, but only because other corporates are using theirs for bad reasons. At best that seems to make corporate power a neutral thing, and in the bigger picture I think it is clearly bad.

And one last point: most people accept that some surveillance is necessary as a genuine method of preventing criminal and terrorist activity but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to use spying for less critical reasons. And it certainly shouldn't be used as an excuse to spy on innocent citizens, foreign leaders, or anyone else unless there is a very strong reason to suspect them of a very serious crime.

And no, by "serious crime" I do not mean hosting a few movies on a server like Kim Dotcom allegedly did!


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