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Small Utah company shames big tech outfits Featured

A small Utah internet service provider has been providing its customers with the maximum protection for their data - in sharp contrast to big companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo! which have been feeding the NSA with whatever it requested.

Ever since former NSA employee Edward Snowden revealed that Americans were being systematically spied on, these big corporates, who were outed as co-operating with the government, have been at great pains to try and reclaim their virgin status.

Google went first, demonstrating a brand of hypocrisy for which it is well-known.

Then came Yahoo!, broadcasting the fact that it had won a case to potentially prove that it had tried to avoid releasing customer data. That data has yet to be released - no doubt lawyers within the company are now seeing exactly what needs to be redacted before it is made public.

Facebook has been bleating itself blue in the face, to deny that it has ever been part of a mass surveillance program. But it has offered no proof to back up its assertions.

Overnight Microsoft has joined the queue, with its counsel Brad Smith asking the Obama administration for permission to release information about how it responds to government orders for customer data.

They all want to appear squeaky clean. Nobody likes to be known as a stooge for the government.

Doubtless, their spin would soon start to bear some fruit, were it not for that quirky newspaper, The Guardian.

A week ago, one of its intrepid reporters, Rory Carroll, went all the way to Salt Lake City to write about a small internet service provider, Xmission, that for years has been telling the government to take a hike when it comes to demanding customer data.

According to Carroll's report, Xmission has, for the last 15 years, been telling the authorities one thing when they come around to demand data to snoop on - bring us a warrant.

Xmission has been using the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution to keep local, state and federal authorities at bay. It has protected its 30,000 customers to the extent possible, putting their interests first.

The company's chief executive, Pete Ashdown, told Carroll that since 1998, he had rejected dozens of requests from the authorities, including subpoenas from the Department of Justice, with just one argument - that such requests violated the US constitution and state law.

Only once, on his lawyer's advice, did Ashdown give in - in 2010, when a request came from the FBI, backed by a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

It kind of exposes those big corporations a wee bit, doesn't it? Makes them look like frauds.

Of course, it is indeed possible that companies like Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Microsoft, despite the many allegedly brilliant minds in their employ, are unaware that the US constitution has a Fourth Amendment. Ignorance knows no barriers, certainly not in the US.

It is also possible that in these tough economic times, these four giant corporations have no money to pay a lawyer or lawyers for sensible advice. Poor folk, they do need to retain some cash to pay multi-million-dollar bonuses.

Or it could be that the toady culture is too ingrained in their ranks for them to ever truly want to respect their customers. After all, the money is coming in from supine, docile customers who hardly ask a question, so why bother?

Of course, as I have pointed out before, Google is so craven when it comes to the government that the latest dose of BS it has dished out, a book titled The New Digital Age, has endorsements from Henry "Vietnam war architect" Kissinger, Tony "45-minute WMD attack" Blair, Bill "Slick Willy" Clinton, and Madeleine "it doesn't matter if 500,000 Iraqi children die due to sanctions" Albright.

The authors of that book? Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.


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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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