Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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Google has spent a whopping eighteen and a half million US Dollars on lobbying in the past year. This huge investment has them ranking number 8 on the list of companies who spend the most on campaigns. And it has possibly given them the sway that they need to petition against the NSA’s continued mass surveillance efforts.
Google in Good with the White House
Google, Inc. has hired several lobbyists in the past months, and now supports 11 in a single office up from the two they previously shared across offices. In addition to lobbying, Google has also invested in political campaigns. And they have hired people who were both formerly in office and supporters of those now in office. They have grown an impressive network over time that will prove to be a powerful ally. These together have already given them more positive responses from both the FCC and the FTC when they faced penalties for improper data collection and storage.
Moving Against NSA Spying
As if to emphasize Google’s newfound rapport with the powers that be, their office in Washington will physically move closer to Capitol Hill. This is a good sign as the company begins preparations to take a stronger stand against NSA surveillance and data gathering. Google has gained many ears in government, a PR strategy that other internet companies like Microsoft were unable to grasp early enough to make a difference. Google vehemently disagrees with the NSA’s practice of intercepting data. And now they have clout with policy-makers, enough at least to have their preferences heard.
Google has gotten the help it needs to reflect some of the heat over its participation in the NSA’s spying program. Lobbyists are still working overtime to preserve the company’s character and image. The company denied early in June that they were giving the NSA open access to the consumer data on their servers. But they were late in making a statement regarding how they feels about NSA data mining. They waited almost five months, until the end of October, to express their anger over the spy activities. But in retrospect this was a good move. It allowed them to gain the trust and support of many powerful allies before they took up arms. Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt now openly denounces NSA spying.
Google has already taken steps to peel away the layers that cover the NSA spy program. They have been lobbying Congress to allow them to release to the public records of the frequency with which the government has asked them to share consumer data. Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and AOL are joining this campaign. At present, the administration does not give companies permission to share details relating to such government orders. On another front, a privacy board recommendation on limiting the NSA’s power to gather and store data is expected. And under a special board put together by Congress, it is hoped that foreign nationals can get better privacy rights in terms of communications data. The NSA currently has the power to freely mine any and all communications data of non-US citizens.
Relying on VPNs as Users Wait for Change
Meantime, internet users are still in danger of having their personal data run through the NSA sieve. But rather than stand by idly waiting for a savior, most have educated themselves on better online security practices. Many have turned to online privacy and anonymizing tools like VPNs to help them preserve their own privacy as they wait for positive change in spying policies. And this has helped the VPNs grow, allowing providers of VPNs like ExpressVPN to expand. Many can now give more users greater security coverage, and have stepped up to the challenge. Online privacy and security has never been as crucial to internet users as it has been over the past five months. And VPNs have truly backed users’ up with technology and information resources as they searched for means to protect their identities and data.