Telecoms privacy, or lack thereof, is a choice you've already made

8 June 2013 by Steve Blum

You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company.

What we’ve seen over the past week might be news, but it’s not new. Telecoms and information service providers are in an ever tightening squeeze, as public and private interests use congressional influence to access customer information for their own ends.

It’s still not clear just how enthusiastically Google, Facebook, Verizon, AT&T and others have cooperated with federal spying efforts. So far, when companies have commented, it’s been along the lines of “we’re only doing what we’re required by law to do, and nothing more.”

In that sense, it’s no different than the cooperation telecoms companies are required to give intellectual property owners under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And they don’t seem too upset at having to share customer information. In fact, they’ve figured out how to use the law to their own advantage too.

Copyright holders are far more brazen about throwing their congressionally granted weight around than the government agencies in the news lately. Of course, the fear caused by a letter from Warner Brothers demanding twenty bucks is a few orders of magnitude less than the terror of an IRS audit or an FBI investigation.

But small encroachments on personal choice and privacy add up, as lobbyists focus their attention and largesse on a relative handful of political decision makers.

Whether it’s entertainment company lawyers or CIA drone pilots that threaten, the power to access information we’ve placed in service provider hands has come from our elected representatives. They’re doing it with the consent of the governed. If you don’t like it, withdraw your consent the next time you vote.