There have been some signs that social media networks and communications providers are pushing against being forced into an Orwellian surveillance arrangement by the government in the name of greater safety and security. Following Snowden’s whistleblowing on the NSA and its international intelligence partners' secret mass surveillance programs and their capabilities, companies are calling for accountability and transparency in government surveillance in the U.S. and other countries around the world.
In 2014, global communications giant Vodafone revealed the existence of secret wires in their mobile technology that allowed government agencies to listen to any and all conversations on its networks. The company stated that these wires were widely used in a number of the 29 countries in which Vodafone operates across Europe and the world.
Vodaphone chose to disclose this information in an effort to create a backlash against government surveillance leading to the need for warrants and increased transparency when access to customer communications was demanded. In June 2014 the Law Enforcement Disclosure Report was published. The length of a short novel, the report was a detailed and complete survey to date about how governments monitor the conversations and whereabouts of their citizens. Since then, it has been updated three times, the most recent adding new sections addressing data retention and encryption.
The company said wires had been connected directly to its network and those of other telecoms groups, allowing agencies to listen to or record live conversations and, in certain cases, track the whereabouts of users. Spokespeople for privacy campaigns said the disclosures were a "nightmare scenario" that verified their worst fears to the extent to which government spying on private citizens existed.
In addition to providing data for individual countries, the report accused governments of using a variety of methods to pressure online service providers into agreeing to help with clandestine surveillance of their customers.
Vodafone executives and shareholders have called on governments to be more publicly transparent in their associations with telecommunications providers. They also have repeatedly confirmed suspicions of continued direct access technology being employed by some governments. This lets these governments access the private data of the provider’s customers without the need for a court order or warrant. The technology also lets governmental agencies access data without notifying the company involved when the collection of personal data is occurring.
Social media, technology, and communications companies don’t want to be the mechanism through which governments obtain personal private information about their citizens, nor do they want to be forced to take the blame for the surveillance. There is growing anger among these companies regarding the limitations placed on them intended to block them from informing their customers about ongoing government surveillance and how they might be affected.
Other companies standing up against government in support of user privacy are Adobe, Credo, Dropbox, Lyft, Pinterest, Sonic, Uber, Wickr, and Wordpress. Companies ranked as most likely to surrender user data without a fight include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, WhatsApp and Amazon (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2017).