Ah, the ironies of the Information Age.
Archrivals Apple, Google, and Microsoft forge an alliance with competitors Facebook, Twitter, and others to tell the US government it is gathering too much of our personal data. The news sent a hundred standup comedians scurrying for their word processors.
"There is no more privacy -- get over it," said Scott McNealy, the former chief executive of Sun Microsystems back at the dawn of the Web era when Sun called itself "the dot in dotcom," an arms dealer to the up-and-coming Internet companies.
Fast-forward 15 years and those startups are the new industrial giants. They sell digital vacuum cleaners to pull every photo, receipt, and email you create into their cloud storage services.
The vision of big data analytics is compelling -- a benevolent digital helper that anticipates your every need. The reality is less sophisticated, and often compared to teenage sex -- everyone talks about it, but no one is doing it, or at least not doing it very well.
It's interesting to hear the Web giants talk about democracy and principals of fair information gathering as they revise their privacy and opt-in policies for the umpteenth time. They rightly point to an erosion of trust, but fail to point out their role in it.
Interestingly, Amazon was not a party to the call for the government to get its hands off Web data. The big digital bookstore stands in an interesting position as supplier of computing services to individuals, companies, and, with its latest contract, to the CIA -- perhaps something The Washington Post will report on soon, or not.
Well, as they say, information wants to flow freely. But these days the cost of freedom seems to be a pretty big datacenter, a standing army, or a secluded apartment somewhere in Moscow.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times