EULA Hoola, and Other Dances with the NSA


So with the NSA’s leaked documents continuing to pour out thanks to my new favourite person, Edward Snowden, all of Silicon Valley is getting a little nervous as the information keeps coming. And just a few days after Google and the other Tech giants leaned on the government to ask them to tone down the NSA’s, ya know, spying, we discover that our pals at the NSA (Hi guys.) are using Google’s cookies to gather intelligence.

And boy, is Google’s face as red.

A letter from our big 8 (Aol, Apple, Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo!) directed to President Obama and the U.S Congress asks the American government to take the necessary steps to tilt the balance towards the rights and freedoms of the average individual user. The letter outlines five principles that the 8 think the government should enforce. They are as follows:

1. Limiting Governments’ authority to collect users’ information.

2. Oversight and accountability.

3. Transparency about government demands.

4. Respecting the free flow of information.

5. Avoiding conflicts among governments.

And that’s all very well and good, no really, it is. But of course, nothing is ever that simple. These companies collect our information and use it for marketing and advertising, as we know and accept that with every end user agreement licensing agreement we click ‘agree’ on but do not read. So when Google’s own PERF cookies, cookies that track users and customize ad content to fit them are the entry point through which the NSA has been able to do some of it’s best spying, the problem obvious becomes more complex than simply reigning the NSA in.

The problem is , of course, is that things are only going to make things worse. With all of us glued to our smart phones and tablets, and Google Glass on the horizon, our movements will continue to be tracked through ads. When we agree to something like that, you have to wonder if the NSA even needs to try that hard, and what we have allowed into our lives we can’t let out.

Do you think it’s ironic that the Big 8 is speaking out against the NSA when the tracking they do for ads helps the NSA’s work happen?

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