It would be comical if it weren’t so frightening how eight key Internet providers (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, et. al.) have petitioned the White House to do something about the NSA’s spying while failing to mention that they themselves are either spying on Internet users or else allowing others to do so—companies like Doubleclick, an advertising company, or QuestionMarket, a company that collects  data for example on your purchases, which may include your name and phone number, etc. Yet do we hear even a peep of concern over this ubiquitous spying by businesses?—Not a word!

And not one word either from Mr. Anti-Spying himself—Edward Snowden.  Are we to assume that  he knows all about government spying but nothing at all about businesses spying? Or does he feel that a government collecting personal and confidential information is one thing, while  a business doing it  is something else altogether.  If the latter, Is he so naïve as to believe that businesses are inherently virtuous and would never at some time in the future misuse our data? (After the recent  bank, real estate, stock brokerage , et. al., unprecedented  fraud that took the world to the very doorstep of another Great Depression,  one would have to be blind indeed to think that businesses  are more virtuous than governments.)  In light of Snowden’s continuous revelations about the NSA, his silence about Internet spying by the business world is most puzzling indeed.

The question we need to ask is: Are we to have merely “relative privacy”—privacy from government  spying but not from businesses spying? Are we comfortable with Google knowing, and  showing, not only where we live but which Internet sites we visit, when,  what we do there, what we buy, how much we spend, etc.?

“Privacy” (here defined as everything about ourselves: how we spend our money, who or what we visit, etc.) is a virtual absolute; it is either present or it’s not. There is no such thing as “relative privacy.”  Privacy is an either/or, not a both/and. It either is or it isn’t.—And unfortunately it isn’t! (I say “virtual” because with a court order, on a suspicion of a crime, etc, the interests of the state at that moment override the absolute privacy of an individual.)

So to watch this group of Internet providers wringing their hands in despair over the NSA’s spying  was comical, since each knows only too well that every Internet user is tracked if at all possible—yet not one word was raised by them against this practice. Why not?—Money. Profit. millions of dollars is at stake, that’s why. And uniquely in the US, profit habitually trumps virtue and morality, by the right-wing as well as by the left-.

And where, one may ask, is the public’s outcry in all this?

“ He who ceases to be vigilant will in time lose all his liberties.” So said Wendell Phillips, wisely.  Are we so engrossed in our little self-absorbed world of cell-phone texting, activities, and games that no one really cares if on the Internet someone watches, and notes, our every move?

Len Sive Jr.