Can’t We All Just Get Along: The U.S. Intelligence and the Tech Community

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Can’t We All Just Get Along: The U.S. Intelligence and the Tech Community

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Technology is access.

Technology is freedom.

Technology is breaking barriers and building bridges.

Technology is this and so much more, but what happens when people try to force technology into a box?

Since the beginning of the technology boom, there is an unfiltered freedom that inventors and entrepreneurs have enjoyed. The limitless nature of technology has brought some of the most brilliant minds together to create new technologies across industries and fields, truly improving the quality of life for people across this country and abroad. But does this freedom have limits? Lately, the United States Federal Government wants the tech industry to fall in line (and follow orders) when the lives of Americans are in danger and the best information is stored in social media or in an iPhone?  It might sound dramatic to you, the simple freedom of a technology company to do what it will does cut into the core of the foundation of technology today. The old heads that run the CIA and FBI may fail to understand it’s less about not caring about the safety of lives, but the idea of limiting the freedom of their users.

Many have pondered, are pondering and will continue to ponder:  What is the responsibility of American tech companies in the fight against terrorism?  And to be more frank, who is being a brat in the situation? The Federal Government or the guys in T-shirts (i.e. tech guys) or both?

Well, in case you missed it, it was reported that Twitter is barring an analytics service to the U.S. Intelligence community.   (“Twitter Bars Intelligence Agencies From Using Analytics Service”). The story will continue to unfold and this move by Twitter will be sure to only increase the growing tensions between technology firms and the U.S. intelligence community. Not to mention, an article last week highlighted the present difficulty to the international intelligence community when attempting to retrieve information from American technology companies, such as Facebook, on American soil to prevent or predict terrorists’ attacks in Paris and Brussels. (In Europe’s Terror Fight, Police Push to Access American Tech Firms’ Data). The users are overseas, but because the social media company is in the U.S., the standardto give information is even higher, and the laws would need to be changed by Congress. (Good luck with that)

All parties would agree that the government is doing their job in trying to protect American citizens and allies abroad. But if you know anything about entrepreneurs, besides their passion and their awesome ideas, working for themselves is probably on their top 10 list when it comes to their must-haves. The reality is more about perception of working “for” the US Government. A line from the WSJ article highlights the issue perfectly:

“Post-Snowden, American-based information technology companies don’t want to be seen as an arm of the U.S. intelligence community,” said Peter Swire, a Georgia Institute of Technology law professor and expert on data privacy.

I get it guys. Freedom. But wait….

Aren’t we essentially talking about safety versus autonomy, right? I mean we simply cannot be considering the idea of “snitches get stitches” when it comes to tech companies not wanting to be aligned with the U.S. Intelligence community. To put it in plain English, can the optics of tech companies assisting the government really be that bad? The idea of privacy, in the way the founders of the Constitution thought of it, is essentially gone.  I mean I have a few conspiracy theorists in my family. Not the ones who casually are suspicious, but real conspiracy theorists and they use Facebook and believe it is a part of a larger conspiracy. The reality is that they still USE Facebook to keep their eye out for information. That is what it’s there for. There is no doubt whether it’s public or private knowledge, people in their hearts of hearts think that the government is using all of the  information through social media, websites, the internet and your trusty dusty iPhone anyway. I believe that we have come to terms that the best way to be private is to keep that information in your mind.

And even though I say all of this, I still am left with the question of whether it is the responsibility of American Tech companies to provide the information to the government.

I honestly don’t know, because I do not have all the answers. But we need to think about it. Think about the value of our autonomy with our products, what does our creativity means to us? And then think about the cost of American lives?

The fear of the government abusing the technology is real which is the only reason I am not shouting the rooftop saying, “Give it to them (the information), all of it!”. So where is the happy medium, what is the compromise?

Share your thoughts below.


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