After reading the Brennan Center for Justice article, The Third-Party Metadata Idea Is Fourth-Rate, I was struck by what I didn’t read in it.
Perhaps I just haven’t seen articles that have covered some of the issues I think about when it comes to data gathering. To be sure, it also seems crazy for me to even appear to be second-guessing people with the credentials of Ms. Cordero and Ms. Goitein, but here’s what they and others don’t seem to be talking about in the metadata debate.
1. The data is already with private corporations
Where do we think the metadata for our telephone and Internet traffic comes from, government agencies? Comcast keeps serving me ads for a previous employer because I paid that employer’s web site a visit a few weeks back, and Verizon Wireless knows whether or not I’m getting close to exceeding my monthly cell usage voice or data limits.
2. Competitors don’t like to share
The idea that AT&T or Verizon or Comcast or anyone else is going to agree to submit their metadata to any of their competitors or some other third party chosen through a bid process by a collection of government agencies has all the same likelihood of President Obama pardoning Edward Snowden and inviting him over to the White House for lunch.
3. Security risks
Seriously? These learned authors are suggesting that private corporations are not as good as government agencies at securing data? I have another perspective based on some industry experience – no one is good at it. Ask Target or First Data or any other corporation that has been breached if they weren’t motivated and spending lots of money to keep hackers out. Now ask yourself if you really believe that the government is more motivated than a profit-driven private corporation to do anything.
4. Financial motivations
This might be the one place where I’m in complete agreement with the authors. A private corporation being paid what we have to anticipate could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t going to ever give that up, and they’ll do everything they can to corrupt present and future elected officials to keep telling us how afraid we must be and that we must allow all this unwarranted data collection to continue (while, no doubt, the private company or companies make tidy donations to each party, to relevant candidates, and to all the right super PACs.)
And, whose money is it that will be paid to a third party even if that is the way this goes? OURS!
Have we not privatized and subcontracted enough of our government’s functions yet? Have we already forgotten that we had far too many contractors fighting our wars and providing all manner of services to troops and military operations? What about the enormous concession that was made to private health insurers who got their wish of a legislated demand for their products from every American and without competition from a public source in the PPACA? How about the subsidies to Big Ag and Big Fossil Fuel?
Have we not yet reached our limits of tolerance and acceptance of sending our tax dollars to private corporations?
Speaking only for myself and not the Coffee Party, what we need is a government who immediately stops collecting data about us and who has to abide by the same Constitution as everyone else. No government agency at any level should be allowed to seize anything that’s mine without probable cause and a warrant.