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Silicon Valley idealists crash into reality in spy row

Posted on June 12, 2013
The "Facebook" logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris. The idealists who founded some of the most successful technology companies now find themselves entangled in controversy over the vast US government surveillance program denounced as Orwellian.

The “Facebook” logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris. The idealists who founded some of the most successful technology companies now find themselves entangled in controversy over the vast US government surveillance program denounced as Orwellian.

The idealists who founded some of the most successful technology companies now find themselves entangled in controversy over the vast US government surveillance program denounced as Orwellian.

Ironically, the firms accused of being part of a Big Brother network began with lofty ideals such as Facebook’s to make the world “more open and connected” or Google’s “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

“By the times the companies are making billions of dollars they are probably not that idealistic anymore,” said Roger Kay, an analyst and consultant with Endpoint Technologies Associates who has followed the sector since the early days of the Internet.

“They have had to make decisions to make money rather than protecting the rights of their users,” he added.

Joseph Hall, senior technologist at the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology, said companies like Google, Facebook and Apple end up collecting vast amounts of data in a quest to “monetize” their large user base, and thus become important targets for law enforcement.

“The move to the cloud is significant,” Hall said. “All that data is available because so much processing power and storage is sourced so quickly.”

Hall said that as companies mature after public share offerings, “there is a lot of pressure to do things that are different from their idealistic missions. They have to create value for the shareholders.”

Under the PRISM program, revealed in the past week, the secretive National Security Agency can issue directives to Internet firms demanding access to emails, online chats, pictures, files, videos and more, uploaded by foreign users.

Read more at: Phys.org

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