08 February 2017

A Sordid Affair: Technology Giants and the States that Govern Them

Feuds between technology and law are not a new item in the news- policy makers often find themselves variously courted by the technology industry, or lambasted by it, depending on which way the winds are blowing on any given afternoon.  Many consumers, for example, in the United States and indeed around the world, may be familiar with the Apple/FBI tangle in 2016.

But the relationships are not always "IT vs. the Big Bad Government."  IT businesses are... well... businesses, after all, and can only be expected to act accordingly.  As such, today's choice pairing of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) with the U.S. Blunderer in Chief should come as no surprise.  Business-savvy Intel is simply attempting to capitalize on the momentum of the "Make America Great Again" movement, and it's difficult to blame them.  The fact that Trump had nothing to do with the touted job-creating factory is a triviality, of course; there's publicity to be had.

Lest this post be perceived as picking on poor, defenseless little Intel, let's look at a few other examples in recent memory of tech giants playing the quintessential bellweathers to political winds- most often around privacy issues (this is the 21st century, after all):

What can a normal consumer take away from this?  One simple lesson:

No for-profit technology company is going to be the persistent champion of your privacy or your freedom of speech.


Businesses can, will, and do change privacy positions, even to the point of violating their own published policies, if there's cold hard cash to be made.  So who is your champion?  You are.  You, and you alone, can assume responsibility for your rights under the law.  This is not a new idea, but sometimes we need to be reminded of it.

The more judicious reader may have already asked, "but if I have nothing to hide, why bother with privacy at all?"  This is, as history has shown time and time again, a fool's argument.  The statements, views, and opinions that are blithely ignored today can (and, tragically, often do) become sedition tomorrow, and prohibitions against ex post facto legislation don't always hold up as well as they should- particularly once the specter of terrorism starts blasting its banshee-like wail over the land.  Shouting "but that's an ex post facto law" will do precious little to get one out from behind bars.

As such, it behooves all freedom-loving folk to arm themselves with weapons of free speech, just as must as with weapons of steel and lead.
  • Have a home alarm system (electronic or furry) to alert you of physical intruders?  Great.  Repurpose an old computer as a firewall to protect from cyber-intrusion.
  • Keep a firearm around in case somebody breaks through the front door?  Awesome!  Have legal weapons at the ready in case your digital privacy is breached.
  • Lock up when you leave the house, as a simple deterrent to theft?  Smart move.  Encrypt your computers and mobile devices to do the same thing for your data.
None of these will take much of anything from you in terms of time or money- a couple of hours end-to-end, and ostensibly all of it is free.  If you can't be bothered to protect yourself, you don't get to play the victim when you get pwned, censored, or silenced.