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Hypocrisy alert: big tech firms complain of data intrusion

9 December 2013

6:28 PM

9 December 2013

6:28 PM

It’s time to reform government surveillance, so say the internet’s tech giants. Following the stream of NSA spying revelations from The Guardian; AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo have joined forces to urge Barack Obama and the US Congress to tighten the laws regarding spying on individuals. In an open letter released today, they state:

‘We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.

‘For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.

‘We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit’

The giant online firms complaining of intrusion on personal data is laughable. Nearly all of the companies above are very happy to mine personal data to make money — they don’t like the government beating them at their own game. Jamie Bartlett examines how these ‘little brothers’ are spying on us in this week’s Spectator:

‘What may seem innocuous, even worthless information — shopping, musical preferences, holiday destinations — is seized on by the digital scavengers who sift through cyberspace looking for information they can sell: a mobile phone number, a private email address. The more respectable data-accumulating companies — Facebook, Google, Amazon — already have all that’

‘…one of the reasons firms like Amazon and Google have grown so huge is that they deliver services which billions of us want. The majority of Brits now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social media account — none of which charge us a penny. As the saying goes: if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’

You can read the full text of Jamie’s cover piece here.

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Show comments
  • Smithersjones2013

    Where do the big Internet Companies think government got their snooping ideas from? They don’t call it Googlemania for nothing……

  • pearlsandoysters

    I guess that this type of thing can be safely called “The bees declare the war against the honey.” The multinational companies are so keen on extracting the every last beat of personal information, that the whole thing is positively laughable. The point is that the denizens need protection from their intrusion on privacy, meanwhile the governments, which function is supposedly to do just that are even better equipped to extract the information, so the general public has no where to turn.

  • Alex

    … and how do these companies make money from your date, Sebastian? By finding links between it and companies who want to advertise to you. So you get advertising that is more likely to be a match to what you want than random adverts. And in return you get free email, free Facebook, etc. And you can leave any time you want.
    Compare with the state, that collects your data, doesn’t tell you what it’s doing, and bills you for the privilege. It passes that data to pretty much any department of government, and has an appalling track record of controlling access to it. And you don’t get to opt out. And you think that Google is the problem?!

  • dalai guevara

    You know what puts a smile on my face?

    Every quarter when them clubcard/nectar points come in, addressed to Dr Dalai Guevara.

  • Alexsandr

    google facebook and twitter I can shun -indeed I do shun facebook and twitter. But I can’t shun the government.. Nor the US government.
    Thats the difference.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Well arguably you can. Governments can and do get changed. Granted its not that easy and requires significant collective will of the electorate but it does happen quire frequently.

  • In2minds

    Big tech firms and government, my sympathy to anyone so daft as to think they are playing the same ‘game’.

  • telemachus

    Hypocrisy yes
    But in the case of the state in a good cause
    Google collect data on telemachus for commercial gain for google shareholders
    But rabid Clegg killed our data bill for narrow political sound bite gain
    When this bill would have protected us from the worldwide terror conspiracy and the more homegrown paedophile conspiracy
    We read yesterday the GCHQ has a crack team working on the secret access to the dark Internet used by paedophiles
    I laud this

    • Andy

      Oh dear. Things not going so well at Gestapo Headquaters ?

    • CharlietheChump

      Just glad to know someone is watching you 24/7.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    I must say I’ve never heard that last so-called saying.