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Public Pressure Can Push Companies to Make the Right Choice for Privacy

Tech companies are evolving in the post-Snowden era in ways that can compliment OffNow and other legitimate reform efforts with a little public pressure.

Apple and Google recently announced increased privacy protections for their consumers. Company spokespeople say the new products will feature enhanced encryption of user data that will reportedly make it very difficult to comply with government requests to seize the information. This is causing civil liberties advocates to rejoice and the national security establishment to throw a conniption fit.

Marshall Erwin analyzed this news in further detail in his Just Security blog:

Apple and Google have been criticized for making technical changes that have the sole effect of thwarting lawful warrants. The arguments made by critics of Apple and Google assert that these changes will result in damage to the public interest by protecting criminals and those who want to do us harm. More importantly, they suggest that warrant protections are necessary and sufficient to safeguard the public interest and to adjudicate the circumstances under which the government may access data. By extension, any technical mechanisms that go beyond those warrant protections must therefore detract from the public interest.

These critics of Apple and Google must live in an alternate reality where the Edward Snowden leaks did not happen.

In modern-day America, it is a well-recognized fact that some of the biggest law violators out there receive paychecks from the federal government. Because corporations like Apple and Google were previously lax with their security measures, this enabled the NSA’s warrantless gathering of information – and in fact made it easier. They initially wanted to work with law enforcement, and jeopardized the privacy of millions of their customers while doing so. Erwin explains:

The dynamic over the previous decade, in which technology enabled legal authorities to collect ever more data, served the public interest in cases in which evil-doers recorded more data about their evil-doing by making that data readily available to law enforcement. But it also increased the availability and accessibility of data about everybody else, throwing the balance between privacy and security out of whack.

Now the balance is finally being restored, and not by Washington D.C. action. The federal government is doing everything it can to preserve the status quo. They shamefully plod forward with their plans regardless of what happens. However, market-based entities are not as tone deaf and obstinate as the feds. Tech companies are acting to meet market demand and protect privacy.

These technical protections can aid in our legal reforms against NSA spying.

Corporations will take measures to protect the privacy of their consumers not because they are altruistic or care about the public good, but to protect their bottom line. They know that the public is not happy that all of their data is accessible to NSA analysts with a click of a button. They have to combat this menacing system, or lose market share to competitors more in tune with the will of the public.

We further ratchet up public pressure and turn up the heat on these corporations with legislation such as the C.H.O.I.C.E. Act written to prevent companies in bed with the NSA from doing business with a state.

The NSA never has to respond to the concerns of the public because it is insulated in a bubble far away from the masses. It operates in a cloak-and-dagger fashion at its facilities far away from the prying eyes of the public. The NSA also receives tax revenue regardless of its performance. The money always keeps flowing in, usually with its budgets increasing every fiscal year. That is why we must work outside the federal system by pressuring corporations and, most importantly, understanding our rights.

We can reverse the NSA’s abuses with the right game plan. The federal government has made it seem as if the only way people can create change is by showing up to vote. That is not the case. The Constitution was written to allow for many checks and balances to stop a belligerent centralized authority. One of those checks and balances is the decentralized nature of the system. It allows for states to take measures that hinder the progress of federal overreach.

While federal-level reforms stall and lawsuits fail to rein the NSA in, we offer a plan that you can implement your community. You don’t have to move to Washington D.C. and spend money to lobby a corrupt Congress to do the right thing. You can organize people locally to stimulate action in your state legislature. Denying state-level compliance and material support to the NSA can be enough to stop the spying giant.

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