Tech Companies Call For Government Reform–And It’s About Damn Time

Reform government surveillance


Last night a website called Reformed Government Surveillance went up, supposedly signed by the biggest names in our business.

  • AOL
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
  • Microsoft
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo

The big tech companies called for responsibility on the part of the government, outlining 5 principles that they think will keep the government accountable.

  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

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?

New Hampshire Startup Aims To Block Snoops, But Can’t Block NSA

SnoopWall,New Hampshire Startup, Cyber Snooping, Prism, NSA

Ever since former Edward Snowden blew the whistle on Prism, anyone and everyone has been thinking about their privacy and snooping. A Nashua startup called SnoopWall aims to protect people from snooping on their smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately cyber-security expert and founder of SnoopWall, Gary Miliefsky, says it can’t protect you from the NSA.

But say you have a jealous lover, or ex-lover, or maybe your company or coworkers are spying on your phone and tablet. Then you’re in luck. SnoopWall protects phones and tablets by blocking prying eyes from different hardware ports.

Miliefsky explains “They [NSA] own access to the towers, the routers, to backdoors. We’re not going to stop the good guys; we’re going to stop the bad guys.”

Normal snoopers, without the backing and technology of the NSA, often use a tactic called “port scanning”. This digital eavesdropping tactic scans open ports for things like webcams, microphones, and GPS systems. When these ports are left open, potential snoops can get in and do a variety of things like watch what your camera sees, or listen to your conversations through the phone or tablet’s microphone. They can also keep track of your whereabouts by tapping into your GPS.

SnoopWall has three levels of security to protect users from would-be eavesdroppers. At one level all ports are blocked or shut down. The second mode is a phone-only mode, and the third is a kid mode which allows kids to play local games and use local apps but shuts down data.

The Nashua Telegraph reports that SnoopWall is bootstrapping and working to raise a very small seed round of $10,000 via Kickstarter. Miliefsky is looking to use the Kickstarter network to drive interest and get people talking about it, which is far more valuable then the $10,000.

“Kickstarter, with six million viewers a day, could not only fund the continuation of the development to a finished release, but create a viral community of friends,” Miliefsky told the Nashua Telegraph. “These people, when they give 5 dollars, they’re not going to give up on you – they tweet and blog to their friends about it.”

Miliefsky is no stranger to startups. He is part of the “Angel Breakfast Club,” a group of angel investors that get together for breakfast in the New Hampshire town. It was there that he got involved with a startup called Pony Express and realized that there was a hole in port security. Milefsky’s background is in cyber security.


Check out SnoopWall on Kickstarter here.