Last night a website called Reformed Government Surveillance went up, supposedly signed by the biggest names in our business.
The big tech companies called for responsibility on the part of the government, outlining 5 principles that they think will keep the government accountable.
- Limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information
- Oversight and accountability
- Transparency about government demands
- Respecting the free flow of information
- Avoiding conflicts among governments
This matters to you as a user of all these networks, because while the government still claims to be looking for terrorists, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which it uses our information for other means. (Dystopian fiction, anyone?)
It also matters to the Nibletz community because we are a group of founders and investors that inherently aren’t a part of the big companies who signed this letter. As our startups grow, the government is likely to turn to our data just as it does to the companies listed above. If they–with their money and manpower–don’t have the political will to resist government intrusion, how will the young guys be able to do it?
But–there’s always a but, isn’t there?–let’s also remember that these are companies, not benevolent individuals. None of these companies, except maybe Twitter, are really considered “innocent” when it comes to users’ data, and plenty of people are skeptical of the amount of information profit-seeking entities have on ordinary citizens.
We all know it’s a part of 21st century life, but that doesn’t mean we blindly trust companies that make a very, very smart PR move.
It has been over a month since Google engineers gave a very public “Fuck you” to the NSA, and beyond some chatter, nothing else has been said. Users have been calling for this kind of action on the part of the tech companies–and more.
While we champion startups outside of Silicon Valley, we all recognize that the companies in this letter are the leaders in our field. We look to them for inspirational success stories, and most of our companies are built on technology and platforms they created.
The question now is, will they continue to lead, or will they stop with a letter on a website?