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A number of US organisations are taking part in an online campaign today, US independence day, to protest against the blanket surveillance of the populace by the National Security Agency revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The campaign is styled around protecting the fourth amendment of the US constitution and is being organised by the non-profit Fight for the Future.

But Google and Facebook, two of the big technology companies that were exposed as co-operating with the US government in its snooping, will be conspicuously absent, according to a report in TechCrunch.

Both companies participated in the campaign against oppressive laws to regulate the internet which were proposed by the US Congress; websites participated by blacking out pages and the laws were withdrawn. This time they are not among the protesters.

Mozilla, WordPress.org, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, Reddit, and MoveOn are some of the big names among the website taking part in the protest.

The campaign is being run on the net, through TV ads, banners, protests in more than 100 cities, and social media.

Google's absence does not come as a surprise. The company has given a clear indication of where its interests lie through the endorsements for the book written by its chairman Eric Schmidt and another employee Jared Cohen.

The New Digital Age had endorsements on the back cover from Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, none of whom can be accused of being on the side of freedom.

And Facebook has given an indication of its attitude towards privacy - if any was needed - through the permissions it requires for use of its Android app.

The list of permissions it needs are mind-boggling; the NSA could not have drafted a more comprehensive list.

This is the list, taken from Google Play:

    Your accounts

    Create accounts and set passwords

    Allows the app to use the account authenticator capabilities of the AccountManager, including creating accounts and getting and setting their passwords.

    Add or remove accounts

    Allows the app to perform operations like adding and removing accounts, and deleting their password.

    Your location

    Approximate location (network-based)

    Allows the app to get your approximate location. This location is derived by location services using network location sources such as cell towers and Wi-Fi. These location services must be turned on and available to your device for the app to use them. Apps may use this to determine approximately where you are.

    Precise location (GPS and network-based)

    Allows the app to get your precise location using the Global Positioning System (GPS) or network location sources such as cell towers and Wi-Fi. These location services must be turned on and available to your device for the app to use them. Apps may use this to determine where you are, and may consume additional battery power.

    Network communication

    Full network access

    Allows the app to create network sockets and use custom network protocols. The browser and other applications provide means to send data to the internet, so this permission is not required to send data to the internet.

    Phone calls

    Directly call phone numbers

    Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Note that this doesn't allow the app to call emergency numbers. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.

    Read phone status and identity

    Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.

    Storage

    Modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

    Allows the app to write to the USB storage.

    System tools

    install shortcuts

    Allows an app to add shortcuts without user intervention.

    read battery statistics

    Allows an application to read the current low-level battery use data. May allow the application to find out detailed information about which apps you use.

    Your applications information

    retrieve running apps

    Allows the app to retrieve information about currently and recently running tasks. This may allow the app to discover information about which applications are used on the device.

    Camera

    Take pictures and videos

    Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

    Other Application UI

    Traw over other apps

    Allows the app to draw on top of other applications or parts of the user interface. They may interfere with your use of the interface in any application, or change what you think you are seeing in other applications.

    Microphone

    Record audio

    Record audio

    Your social information

    Write call log

    Allows the app to modify your device's call log, including data about incoming and outgoing calls. Malicious apps may use this to erase or modify your call log.

    read your contacts

    Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your device, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals. This permission allows apps to save your contact data, and malicious apps may share contact data without your knowledge.

    modify your contacts

    Allows the app to modify the data about your contacts stored on your device, including the frequency with which you've called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific contacts. This permission allows apps to delete contact data.

    read call log

    Allows the app to read your device's call log, including data about incoming and outgoing calls. This permission allows apps to save your call log data, and malicious apps may share call log data without your knowledge.

   Your accounts

    Find accounts on the device

    Allows the app to get the list of accounts known by the device. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed.

    Network communication

    View Wi-Fi connections

    Allows the app to view information about Wi-Fi networking, such as whether Wi-Fi is enabled and name of connected Wi-Fi devices.

    view network connections

    Allows the app to view information about network connections such as which networks exist and are connected.

    Receive data from Internet

    Allows apps to accept cloud to device messages sent by the app's service. Using this service will incur data usage. Malicious apps could cause excess data usage.

    download files without notification

    Allows the app to download files through the download manager without any notification being shown to the user.

    System tools

    Test access to protected storage

    Allows the app to test a permission for USB storage that will be available on future devices.

    Read Home settings and shortcuts

    Allows the app to read the settings and shortcuts in Home.

    Affects Battery

    Prevent device from sleeping

    Allows the app to prevent the device from going to sleep.

    Control vibration

    Allows the app to control the vibrator.

    Your applications information

    Run at startup

    Allows the app to have itself started as soon as the system has finished booting. This can make it take longer to start the device and allow the app to slow down the overall device by always running.

    Reorder running apps

    Allows the app to move tasks to the foreground and background. The app may do this without your input.

    Audio Settings

    Change your audio settings

    Allows the app to modify global audio settings such as volume and which speaker is used for output.

    Sync Settings

    Toggle sync on and off

    Allows an app to modify the sync settings for an account. For example, this can be used to enable sync of the People app with an account.

    Read sync settings

    Allows the app to read the sync settings for an account. For example, this can determine whether the People app is synced with an account.

But then, as Schmidt himself once said, if you're not doing anything illegal, you wouldn't have a problem allowing this level of access, would you?

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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