In light of revelations that the federal government's massive spy apparatus has been unleashed on its own citizens, some tech experts are now advising users of social media and other Internet-based sites that have helped Uncle Sam pry into your life to stop using them altogether.
While I do utilize +Google (+J.D. Heyes) to share my views and help market NaturalNews (we are a web-based publication, after all), I quit using sites like MySpace (remember that one?) and Facebook years ago when I became convinced they were gathering my personal data for later use against me. Turns out that my suspicions weren't so kooky and conspiratorial after all.
Best-selling author and tech expert Prof. Tim Wu of Columbia Law School says Americans should boycott Google and Facebook when it is confirmed that they were secretly collaborating with U.S. intel services like NSA and others using the PRISM surveillance program.
'Enormous data concentrated in a few hands leads to spying'
In an interview with tech mag Wired's British edition, Wu said consumers have an obligation and responsibility to abandon companies who abused the trust of their users and violated pledges to keep private their information.
"Quit Facebook and use another search engine. It's simple," he said, adding: "It's nice to keep in touch with your friends. But I think if you find out if it's true that these companies are involved in these surveillance programs you should just quit."
Wu says many of the accusations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and others have yet to be substantiated, but he did say he wasn't surprised to learn of the existence of PRISM.
"When you have enormous concentrations of data in a few hands, spying becomes very easy," said Wu. "So Facebook and Google were always obvious targets for any government that wants to know stuff about people."
And why not? If you justify your actions ("It's all about national security!") you go to the place where users willingly and regularly reveal their innermost secrets and thoughts, their locations at any time of day, and other personal data.
Wu made his comments to Wired.uk following a keynote speech to delegates of ORGCon2013, an Open Rights Group conference that was held in London June 8. During his address Wu appeared to reference PRISM, asserting that the current situation was a "crisis."
In his speech Wu talked about a number of examples in modern history in which technology was utilized to oppress or control the masses, "such as enforced propaganda radio broadcasts by the Nazi regime," Wired reported. He also said he web surfers should have a "visceral" sense of ownership over their own online data.
He went onto hammer the Obama Administration's track record on issues dealing with civil liberties - something you would think a former community activist like Obama would care most about (and he does, if you're an illegal immigrant or a pot smoker). Wu noted that the Justice Department, under Obama, has been "a colossal disappointment..."
In response to comments the president made directly after the disclosure of PRISM, Wu said, "I think he is underestimating the degree to which people want to feel safe and secure from eavesdropping. I'm not relieved by his comments at all."
Equal protection under the law
Wired.uk reported that Wu is widely known for his views on so-called "network neutrality," a phrase he first coined in the title of a 2003 paper he authored in which he said Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments alike should give universal treatment to all data transmitted electronically.
According to the PowerPoint presentation leaked to The Guardian by Snowden - the authenticity of which has yet to be seriously refuted by the administration - PRISM is a secret intel-gathering program developed and used by the NSA to siphon metadata from compliant tech companies like Google, Skype, Apple, Yahoo! and others.
"I think people need to seriously consider quitting [these] services and moving to ones which are located within Europe," Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, told Wired.uk. "But also the government needs to insist that legal rights and privacy rights should be applied to non-US citizens. After all, European governments respect the rights of US citizens. Why shouldn't they do the same?"
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