The CIA is Paying Millions for AT&T's Phone Records, But Does That Make it Any Better?

Even without subpoenas and government threats, does the exchange of money and volition on behalf of the communications company condone the ambiguous morality behind selling personal information? (Hint: the answer is no)
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Even without subpoenas and government threats, does the exchange of money and volition on behalf of the communications company condone the ambiguous morality behind selling personal information? (Hint: the answer is no)
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Edward Snowden's infamous leak of NSA surveillance programs is still regarded as one of the biggest government scandals in recent memory, and has further exacerbated the already stressed levels of trust the American people have with their government. In the wake of this scandal, various intelligence agencies are attempting to be a little more above board with regard to how they go about obtaining personal information from the public. The latest attempt has actually involved the C.I.A. and AT&T, which apparently have signed a voluntary contract in which the massive communications conglomerate provides access to phone records and its database to the intelligence agency at the price of a little over $10 million a year.

There are several stipulations involved in this transaction, one of the biggest being that several privacy safeguards have been put in place that will protect the personal identity of any Americans and the domestic activity they engage in. According to representatives of the company who spoke to The New York Times, this data-collection program is strictly intended for monitoring potential terrorist activities overseas. So instead of using a subpoena to coerce or bully companies into forking over information, these government agencies are now paying them off instead.

But still, does the exchange of money and volition on behalf of the communications company condone the ambiguous constitutionality behind this sort of activity?

In more or less words, no.

So the C.I.A. is forking over $10 million to get access to what AT&T claims is limited information, but how is this really benefiting the privacy of the American citizen? Is any of that money being used to help reduce the cellphone bills of their clients or improving signal strength in their network? (speaking as an AT&T client, probably not) If anything, this only seems to support the idea that companies would be more than happy to provide access to the information of their clients should a certain person pay the right price.

In fact, the exchange of money only seems to further sully the process of what we can only assume is the protection of this country and its people from potential threats abroad. Shouldn't AT&T assist the C.I.A. out of a willingness to support national security efforts? Doesn't the fact that they're charging $10 million indicate some level of compliance to the concept of selling private information (or at least the interactions between private clients) for a particular sum of money?

A valiant effort on behalf of the C.I.A. and AT&T, but neither have exactly assuaged any lingering doubts regarding the notorious greed of corporations or the government's lack of respect towards the privacy of its citizens. Yet another fail at remedying our privacy/trust issues in this country.