Security expert Bruce Schneier, whom we quoted earlier, has written a startling evaluation of the Pentagon’s PRISM program and concluded that the government, via the NSA and Pentagon, is “commandeering the Internet.” (For what you can immediately do, go here.)
Commandeering is a practice we’re used to in wartime, where commercial ships are taken for military use, or production lines are converted to military production. But now it’s happening in peacetime. Vast swaths of the Internet are being commandeered to support this surveillance state.
That’s what’s happening to the Internet. According to Schneier — and I don’t see how he’s wrong — the Pentagon is folding the Internet into the spy-on-you American State. In other words, it’s true, as we noted earlier, that Google is an arm of the Pentagon, and Apple is an arm of the State.
What happens to commandeered ships when the government is done with them?
They aren’t returned shiny and new, that’s for sure. Schneier says that commandeered Internet companies like Google, having betrayed the trust of their own customers, have a problem, to which there is only one solution: resist.
It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.
I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.
Schneier says that even the cooperating companies won’t be protected by the government they’re serving. Their interests (staying in business, maintaining the trust of their customers) will be kicked aside as soon as the government is done with them.
Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you. You might think that your friendly relationship with the government means that they’re going to protect you, but they won’t. The NSA doesn’t care about you or your customers, and will burn you the moment it’s convenient to do so.
We’re already starting to see that. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are pleading with the government to allow them to explain details of what information they provided in response to National Security Letters and other government demands. They’ve lost the trust of their customers, and explaining what they do — and don’t do — is how to get it back. The government has refused; they don’t care.
It will be the same with you.
Schneier’s take-away is that Google, and Apple, and Microsoft (et al) risk losing a lot of business:
Already companies are taking their data and communications out of the US.
And he wants their top execs to fight back.
My take-away is different — pile on.
These companies are already starting to lose business. Help them to lose more. Are you in a position to steer business away from some of them? Do it. Google isn’t some lefty future-seeing friend; google is a corp with a voracious appetite for cash. It’s eating all ad money on the Internet (that’s one reason the blogs are struggling) and it will sell you out the first day it gets a better deal.
Want to start simple? Stop using the Cloud. After all, if it’s on the Cloud, it’s on a Pentagon server for sure. If you stop using the Cloud, will Apple notice? If enough people do it, absolutely yes.
A second thing you can do is simple and local. Rebrand them among your friends, just like you’d rebrand a faithless politician. Google and Apple spend millions each year to make you think they’re cool, friendly, just folks like you, happy twenty-something hipsters.
You can undo that branding every time you talk about them.
“Google? You mean the Pentagon’s data-collector, right? Ever wonder what some eager low-level contractor would make of your search history?”
“Oh Apple — TV hipsters. Everything you give them they give to the government. You know that, right? The Cloud is connected to the NSA. I stopped using the Cloud weeks ago. Make ‘em work to spy on you.”
And when your friends say, “But weren’t they forced to do it?” you can reply, “How do you know? They lied to you about handing stuff over, of course going to lie about wanting to. They don’t care about you; they just want money. You know, like Exxon.”
At some point this will catch on, and you can help. Rebrand them aggressively, early and often. Then let Google and Apple take Schneier’s advice and fight back publicly, if they want to.
Use the power you have. A lot of good can come of it.
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