Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"The United States of Secrets Part II: PRISM: Privacy Lost"" on PBS Frontline

PBS Frontline concluded the documentary “The United States of Secrets” on Tuesday, Mary 20, called "Privacy Lost", with an exposition of the “Prism” program. The PBS link for the episode is here
Barton Gellman appeared and mentioned that there were nine companies involved in tracking content for the NSA, and indicated that he had been asked not to name them.  He said, however, this was definitely about content, not just metadata.

Many companies got “national security letters” (over 56000 of them) sent without the supervision of the FISA court.

Chad Merrill, CEO of a company called Calyx, decided to challenge the constitutionality of the letters.  The letter had told him he could not discuss their existence with anyone, but he consulted an attorney. 
Google eventually challenged 19 of the letters, following Merrill’s example, and the government eventually backed down.

But Google, according to the show, had led the way by opening up the contents of Gmail to advertisers, as well as various other use of Google apps.  The price of “it’s free” is that advertisers track you.  Of course, this leads back to the “do not track” debate.
I tend to blow people off when they call me, and don’t pay attention to many email ads.  Yet email lists (and telemarketing) have been big business.  I generally know what I want to do and don’t like to be diverted away from it.  But, yes, there are a few people I would welcome calls from.  But that doesn’t come from conventional advertising.  I can also recall how, for insurance agents, for instance, the entire way of “getting business” has to do with leads, a lot from social media, and assumes people are open to being contacted.  But so often now they aren’t.  It gets harder for many sellers to make a living. 

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