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Corporations’ greedy motive to oppose surveillance: Profits!

As philosopher Robin James insightfully pointed out last week, “privacy is a red herring”; that is, it is not a relevant consideration in the debate over surveillance and government power. Rather, the real issue is the balance between “security and freedom,” as Obama and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper repeat ad nauseamthe trite pro-surveillance mantra. Balance, according to James, can be considered either as “the average of two extremes” or it “could mean a dynamically-adjusting continuum (the kind of balancing done, for example, by an audio equalizer or an electrical resistor).” She argues that the discussion over balance is about the latter — how to continually fine-tune the precise resting place between security and freedom.

James’ point is well taken. One of this week’s major stories seems to confirm the success of neoliberalism in precisely this vein: Eight top tech companies published an open letter to the president, in which they urge him to limit the state’s surveillance activities because the “balance has tipped.” It’s not clear what the balance is, though here is how they describe it in their letter:

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