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#TheDayWeFightBack: Reform Public and Private Data Mining

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 11, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Today, February 11, 2014, is "The Day We Fight Back," a movement dedicated to reforming government mass surveillance. It's an important cause, one that we hope you'll join by heading to and contacting your representatives in Congress.

But is it enough to merely deal with government surveillance? Part of the the reason why the NSA has been so effective at monitoring American citizens is because of private data mining by tech companies. These companies scan our emails, request pervasive data permissions on our smartphones, and then act surprised when the government taps into their massive data centers and makes copies.

We're disturbed by NSA surveillance, but we're almost equally disturbed by the rise of "big data" and private data mining.

NSA Facts

We've written a ton about NSA surveillance. Here are a few of those posts:

Don't just take our word for it though. Here are some facts, courtesy of

  • The NSA "has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world." (The Washington Post)
  • The NSA collected "almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks" in one month in 2013. (The Guardian)
  • The NSA is collecting the content and metadata of emails, web activity, chats, social networks, and everything else as part of what it calls "upstream" collection. (The Washington Post)
  • The NSA "is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans." (The Washington Post)
  • The NSA "is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world." (The Washington Post)
  • The NSA "is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country." (The New York Times)

Private Data Mining

This morning, Google's Public Policy Blog announced support for NSA reforms. We've written about data mining tech companies advocating surveillance reform before, but it's worth repeating:

Dear Pot,

You're black.



Put it this way: who would you rather have snooping on you: a private company, which exploits the data for advertising, or the government, which does so in the name of national security. How about none of the above?

Calling your Congressperson is a great place to start. Let's restore the Fourth Amendment. Just don't forget that it isn't just the government that is intercepting your data and tracking everything that you do.

Join the discussion on Facebook at FindLaw for Legal Professionals.

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