I’m a cynic by nature, so it’s great to occasionally revel in a small victory even though one might have an eerie foreboding that the gains seen today will be wiped away by tomorrow’s ill omens.
First, several weeks ago, I heard a very interesting story about a segment of Engineers at Google working towards advancing the cause data-ownership. Recently, these folks introduced a new function to easily download one’s data off of the Google Platform. This might seem to be a pedantic thing for people not on the techie side of things, but this is a pretty major concession on the part of a company that makes its money from exerting control over personal information. More than the actually utility of downloading 4 giga-bytes of e-mail messages and “having them” on ones drive, the step of accommodating the download tacitly concedes that users have a distinct ownership over the data they upload onto Google. This is a big step.
I’ve always been a little concerned about how dependent we have become on Google to hold the information infrastructure that supports our lives. I still don’t trust the company, but it’s good to know that there are people who are aware of the problems
But just as the advocates for privacy must be ever vigilant, so too must Justice’s sword be swift at avenging its offense, and oh-did the avenging sword fall today:
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,”
That quote from judge Richard L. Leon of the Federal District Court for DC in the first ruling of what I hope to be an utter judicial repudiation of the Obama administration ‘s assault on privacy and data ownership. It’s hard not to be optimistic after a ruling strikes at the core of the NSA’s efforts to co-op all privately collected data. However, this is not a definitive as it might at first seem. The ruling just an injunction against further collection of data and likely this step will be overturned by a higher court considering the liberties Judge Leon took with interpreting Smith v. Maryland.
Nonetheless one has to celebrate the small victories raise, raise a glass, and sing something appropriate to the occasion, maybe by Robert Burns….