Data surveillance, technology companies and public trust

Posted Dec 10, 2013 by Abdul Kuddus
Edward Snowden and the PRISM episode issued a chilling reminder that we live in a regulated world where every government keeps a close watch on its citizens — global electronic surveillance is a reality.
Edward Snowden speaks about government transparency at Sam Adams award presentation in Moscow.
Edward Snowden speaks about government transparency at Sam Adams award presentation in Moscow.
Even more frightening is the fact that technology companies submissively cooperate with their government's personal data demands that allows them to dive deep into the everyday lives of Web surfers.

Reports of technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo voluntarily colluding with NSA’s elaborate system to scoop up user data has seriously dented global confidence in the security and privacy of online communications.

Consequently, the revelations of massive data collection have triggered a global backlash seeking stringent controls on electronic espionage.
The rising tide of public dissent is also forcing technology companies to stand for the privacy of users from whom these companies profit millions of dollars.

Reportedly, the atmosphere of anxiety and mistrust has forced people to adopt ingenious privacy solutions. Even those who have nothing to hide are getting more concerned about their privacy.
According to a fall Pew report in the United States, “86 percent of people have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints. Another study concluded that 64 percent of Internet users concerned about privacy have taken action to protect themselves in direct response to the NSA PRISM program” CNN reported.

Recently, more than more than 500 of the world's leading authors, including Nobel Prize winners, urged the United Nations to create an international bill of digital rights that would ensure the protection of civil rights in the Internet age, the Guardian reported.

Fearing relentless electronic espionage and the erosion of trust on data security, countries like Brazil initiated a series of measures to protect online security. Reportedly, other countries are also working on stricter rules for data handling by US technology companies.

All these developments bring the focus back to technology companies. It is understood that public backlashes has forced them to demand sweeping changes to surveillance laws to preserve the public's trust in the Internet.
A question that could always puzzle citizens world over; why did these reputed technology companies initially cooperate with the government's personal data demands, instead of picking a legal fight?