On February 11, Google sent a mass email to about 4.5 million people
. These people, who had signed their names to an online petition protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012, were urged to contact their government representatives to support the USA Freedom Act.
"Google recognizes the very real threats that the U.S. and other countries face today," the email states. "but we strongly believe that government surveillance programs should operate under a legal framework that has very specific rules, is transparent and accountable to oversight, and keeps users like you safe."
The mass email coincided with "The Day We Fight Back," an international protest against government surveillance.
So, let me get this straight: Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Twitter, etc., believe government surveillance programs should be transparent, overseen, and accountable to specific rules...but companies like theirs need not be subjected to the same standards? It's OK for these same companies to sell user data to advertisers, put the onus of privacy protection squarely on the user, and only address privacy concerns when there's public outcry?
The very act of sending a mass email to millions of people about your political position is rather ironic, indeed. When these people put their names on an online petition supporting certain legislation, did all of them understand they were subjecting themselves to further communication about other political causes as well?
I do not protest the act of standing up for a belief, or taking a certain position on a topic. Anyone, from individuals to corporations, should have this right. What I do disagree with, however, is the blatant attempt to create a double standard. Surveillance is surveillance, whether it's mining data to sell to advertisers, or combing data for possible intelligence on pending terrorist attacks. Therefore, what these companies feel is a good standard for the government to meet should be the same standard to which they hold themselves.