Californians distrust their own high tech firms

Californian’s simply don’t trust their own state’s high tech corporations with protecting consumer privacy, according the results of a new poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times..

Times report David Sarno summarizes the findings:

The USC Dornsife/Times poll revealed that the rise of digital culture is mirrored by Californians’ sense of the technology industry’s importance to the state economy, with 65% of those surveyed saying the technology business was more economically important than the state’s other marquee industry, entertainment.

But the increasingly central role of technology in the lives of consumers did little to inspire trust in Silicon Valley’s star companies. Respondents were asked to rate six on whether they trusted the companies to be responsible with personal data. On a 10-point scale, with zero meaning no trust and 10 meaning complete trust, none scored above five, and most hovered around three.

Apple was highest with a mean score of 4.6, followed by Google at 3.8. LinkedIn scored 3.0, while online video site YouTube was rated 2.8. Facebook was next to last, with a score of 2.7, only slightly above Twitter at 2.4.

Read the rest.

Eric Lichtblau reports for the New York Times today on one good reason for mistrust of high tech gadgetry:

Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.

The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.

With cellphones ubiquitous, the police call phone tracing a valuable weapon in emergencies like child abductions and suicide calls and investigations in drug cases and murders. One police training manual describes cellphones as “the virtual biographer of our daily activities,” providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.

But civil liberties advocates say the wider use of cell tracking raises legal and constitutional questions, particularly when the police act without judicial orders. While many departments require warrants to use phone tracking in nonemergencies, others claim broad discretion to get the records on their own, according to 5,500 pages of internal records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union from 205 police departments nationwide.

Read the rest.

We live in a surveillance society, and California corporations are at the forefront of technological tracking. Combine Silicon Valley hardware with the software gold mines of tools like Google, then add in a federal government eager to exploit the resulting bonanza data bonanza, and the dytopians dreams of Orwell and Huxley are realized.

Californians are right to be suspicious.


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