(Trying To) Face Down The Evil At TechCrunch Disrupt

I’ll be on stage in just a couple of hours at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. I’m interviewing a lot of people over the next three days, including CEOs, entrepreneurs, VCs and politicians. See here for my interview schedule, here for the full schedule.

This conference is a little different for me than the dozens of ones that have come before. Why?

Last night Paul Graham asked me if I still love startups. I think what he was asking was if the chemical full on in love affair that I had with startups in the early days of TechCrunch is still going strong, or has morphed into something else over time, as all great loves mellow and evolve.

What involuntarily came out of my mouth had little to do with the question. And I’m pretty sure it’s a theme, bubbling under the surface, that is going to take up a big part of my brain space at Disrupt:

“I’m scared of our government and I’m disgusted by what little Silicon Valley has done to fight it.”

Just today I’m reading yet a new NSA document that laughingly refers to us (the people) as “zombies.”

Who knew in 1984…that this would be big brother [picture of Steve Jobs with iPhone}…and the zombies would be paying customers [pictures of people with phones, tablets]?”

We’ve been dehumanized. At best our government considers us meaningless sheep to be herded/slaughtered at will. At worst they consider us all terrorists or potential terrorists, needed to be watched at all times.

I’ve watched the months of debate. Debates where the government sucks up every bit of information on everyone it can, then argues that as long as it isn’t looking at that data the Fourth Amendment is intact.

But then argues that since they got the data legally, they can certainly look at it, too.

It’s a vicious cycle. Collecting mass data isn’t a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Then once they have it, looking at it doesn’t require a warrant.

As I’ve written before, I don’t believe this is a system to fight terrorism. I believe it is terrorism, against the American people and everyone else in the world.

I’ve brought this up in every one of my preparation meetings with the people I’ll be interviewing.

There has been some pushback. Some people don’t want to talk because lawyers. Others say this isn’t their fight and they can’t effectively lead their organizations from behind bars.

Others say they are willing to speak their mind.

In all cases I will ask the questions. We are inundated with denials and narrowly tailored “transparency reports”, but no company has stepped forward to tell us exactly what is really going on, and why the government seems so optimistic about being able to get user data from companies in real time or near real time, without any judicial oversight.

I’ll ask the CEOs if they feel any responsibility to protect their users against clearly unconstitutional (and just plain icky) government data grabs. I’ll ask them what they are willing to do, if they do feel responsible, to protect those users.

I’ll also ask the VCs and others about this, too.

For example, Right off the bat this morning I am going to ask Ron Conway, who has pushed for gun control via his Sandy Hook Promise for nearly a year now, hasn’t said a word about Silicon Valley’s role in the wholesale destruction of our human rights by the United States government.

He could do so much by leading an effort at real transparency, and a real pushback against the government. But he hasn’t lifted a finger. I want to know why.

He knows this question is coming, we discussed it last night.

And we’ll go from there. At the end of the conference I’ll write again and see what kind of answers we got from our leaders. Because I think we can handle the truth. I think we deserve the truth.

One thing I won’t do is ask the easy “gotcha” questions that I know can’t realistically be answered and that will only serve to make people look stupid. I’m not trying to just stir up the crowd at the expense of the speakers. But there are plenty of constructive and forward looking questions, including personal philosophy questions, that I think can be asked constructively. And secretly I think many of these people are just itching for the chance to say what they really think.

80 thoughts on “(Trying To) Face Down The Evil At TechCrunch Disrupt

  1. Robin Wauters says:

    But do you still love startups?

  2. JeremyCee says:

    **standing applause**

  3. @JeremyCee says:

    *** standing applause ***

  4. Raymond says:

    “many of these people are just itching for the chance to say what they really think” My guess is that they would not share what they really think in a public forum. Maybe in private. I admire your optimism and hope anyway…

    “The devil is us” — in The Lucifer Effect, by Phillip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Stanford University.

    My humble suggestion: never, ever vote for liberal Democrats again.

    • Goddy says:

      Obama is NOT a liberal Democrat for crissake. If you really want to get down to it his positions and record thus far are center-right (moderate republican) when compared historically. Both parties have trended significantly rightward since the 1980s for a number of reasons to the point that if you analyzed Obama or Clinton’s policies and positions you’d find that Nixon–who created the EPA for instance– was more liberal than both. Stop spreading shit talking points and wise up.

      • Very good my friend. Now, do you know WHY and HOW and WHO is shifting our 2 party system to the right? Think shadow government. Think the Council on Foreign Relations. Think Rockefeller. Think Zbigniew Brzezinski. Think Kissinger. Think AIPAC. They are using social engineering techniques to shape the global economy to their liking. The BigBanks, BigOil, and BigDefense companies are part of the military industrial and police state. Its not so bad yet, but the infrastructure is in place. All they have to do is turn the switch and BAAM! Martial Law. What if the shutdown leads to a debt ceiling debacle, followed, by a slowdown in the market and the implosion of $300 trillion in derivatives. Bankruptcy and bail out? Or Cyprus style bail-in? Poof. your money gone.

  5. jacquelinebotting says:

    Thankfully our country still has freedom fighting journalist like you. Good luck.

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. “Just today I’m reading yet a new NSA document that laughingly refers to us (the people) as “zombies.”

    Who knew in 1984…that this would be big brother [picture of Steve Jobs with iPhone}…and the zombies would be paying customers [pictures of people with phones, tablets]?”

    I don’t think “zombies” in the document means all “the people”. I think they specifically mean Apple customers. They’re haters, just like the Tech online haters today. The use “zombies” instead of “sheeple”. They hate Apple Computer. They hate Steve Jobs. They are Microsoft true believers.

  7. Why did you link to a news story about a 107 year old man who was shooting at cops as an example of Police/Government tyranny? The guy was actively shooting at cops, it is in their job description to shoot back. I’m not saying the Police are never wrong, just that the article you linked to doesn’t really do anything to support the kind of argument you are trying to make.

    • It’s their job to avoid getting in a situation where they are being shot at if they can do so. It’s a 107 year old barricading his own bedroom on his own, anyone with an IQ on the right side of the bell curve can figure out that the guy will fall asleep very soon. But hey as long as the people in the land of the free keep thanking thugs like this for their service, why should they start caring right?

    • Why do you need to send a SWAT team in and get into a firefight with a 107 year old man? It’s not like he had hostages or anything, they could have easily waited this one out. Instead, they decided to use the brute force method, with predictable results.

  8. Good guy Michael Arrington 🙂 I hope you get honest answers, and I know you’ll call them out on their bullshit.

  9. While I respect your candor and willingness to voice such strong opinions, I really wish the conspiratorial tone would slow down just a bit. You’re old enough to remember 9/11 as an adult and the unimaginable vulnerability that event brought to everyone within this country which is why your shock to programs like the NSA seems so incredibly misplaced to me. I’m equally confused by your anger toward programs that are fundamentally designed to protect the country when you have no ability (due to your lack of access) to actually fully understand them. I respect your frustration with your lack of access and information but having lived in the intelligence world for 15 years, with all due respect, once you have stepped in those shoes and understand the delicate nature of sources & methods, you would perhaps better understand why some things in our country are classified. Its a catch 22, you feel fear from a program that you don’t get to know about and your representatives have told you is for your own good. Coming from the morons that run this country I respect that view but having been part of the system designed to protect the USA, its hard to deny that our systems have been largely successful since 9/11/2001.

    I think the question you should be asking is what is an appropriate balance between the perception of a lack of privacy against the success of stopping a massive loss of life in a terrorist incident?

    • engineer says:

      Dan, Please read The Creature From Jekyll Island. Or research the issues yourself. The fact of the matter is, a criminal conspiracy was enacted to force a major change to the US Economy, it was done in secret and perpetrated against the american people. This conspiracy is not *theory*. It is fact, long, well established fact, about events that happened nearly a century ago.

      The idea that conspiracies are rare or unusual is propaganda and not supported by history. Thus the rejection, our of hand, of anything that involves more than 1 person doing something wrong as “conspiracy theory” is just sticking your head in the sand.

      It is profoundly irrational, but of course, criminal types like to use it to pretend like it’s absurd to hold them accountable under the law.

      Stop being a sheep, Dan.

      • Hardly a sheep ‘engineer’ and I’m all for auditing the Fed…but do you really think the populace can even begin to understand our money policy? Do you think they care? If they did care, why isn’t there a bigger voice demanding answers? Why is the Tea Party attacked at every turn? Do you really believe people will ever understand or believe the vulnerability of the USD to its replacement as the trading currency of oil? We are a country built on conspiracies but it’s also reality and whether or not people understand that ‘wars for oil’ have nothing to do with securing the black slimy stuff but rather the green paper that backs it is an entirely different discussion. I’ll read the book, sounds like I probably have similar beliefs but I also recognize that we need to protect the homeland from all threats and not all threats come in the form of bullets and bombs.

      • Albert says:

        Sometimes people are sheep because they are cowardly, and sometimes they are sheep because they are actually wolves.

        With the US having perpetrated 9/11 (see ae911truth.org) and then imposing a de facto police state (of which most people are blissfully unaware), we can never know who has betrayed us because the betrayers are rewarded for their silence, and their reluctant ones are threatened into silence.

        • Mcbeese says:

          It frightens me to know that people who think this way are walking around in the community, are legally able to purchase weapons, and are allowed to vote.

    • Chris Tolles says:


      This issue is always the reply for government “if you knew what we did, you would trust is”. If the question is “how many American lives is it worth for us to keep our Constitutional rights?”, my answer is and your should be “All of them.” We as a country vote to maintain gun ownership and speed limits not to mention indirect things like high fat foods and smoking legal which result in the deaths of thousands and thousands of people.

      Further, it is not incumbent of us as an industry to help the government spy on our fellow citizens. I believe I have a right to communicate privately with anyone I choose and further have the right to make that communication secret from the government and provide the facility to others.

      I understand that you believe that these programs are in our best interest, but these decisions cannot be made in secret and with an uninformed populace by the very people who run these programs.

      Our government needs to tell us enough to make an informed decision, and I for one, will vote to curtain that power at the expense of “security”, because I would rather have another 9/11 than live in the society that prevented it through massive and complete surveillance as us as a people.

      • Michael Arrington says:


        • Matt says:

          NO! 9/11 was a tragedy on so many levels. Safety (actually survival) within our own national boarders is worth protecting at some cost born by our population. If you were in NY on that day then you would know this – not from a recording, but experiencing it first hand. I lost colleagues in the towers due to the cowardly acts of the terrorists…

          I’m willing to give some of these so called freedoms to maintain a level of safety for my family within this country (albeit poorly managed by the gov’t at times). The UK and other parts of Europe have shown that you can find this balance.

          Anyone who says another 9/11 would be preferable to unobtrusive surveillance is miscasting history – anyone who lived through 9/11 personally would make that trade-off to get their friends and colleagues back.

          • Cowards? Suicide bombing happens by cowards? God damn. You all are focused on the issues they want you focused on. And Matt here is not only focused, but he is playing ball…god damn all-star Matt. Your government should pin a medal on you. I think you are overstating the importance and impact of 9/11. In fact, I would say its more of a cowardice act to trade the lives of those who are already gone for this safety. It is actually the illusion of safety you get, but to give you the benefit, let’s call it safety. Living in the past is not only weak, it does not lead to progress. You did say you are willing to give “some of these so called freedoms”. So you want to choose which ones? While at it, pick which lives you want to get back. Fuck the rest. Because that’s how it works.

      • Don’t worry Mr. Swartz, we are from the governement and we are here to help.

      • Chris your response equally out of the playbook of the masses that have never volunteered their time and or lives to ensure your constitutional rights are actually protected. I’m not trying to be an asshole about this but I’m really tired of constantly being told about how I’m against the constitution because I find some programs may actually ensure its existence for the next several hundred years.

        The speculation surrounding the NSA and other government programs/operations is just that and the fact is, if the population were required to be informed about each and every critical decision we make, why would we need elected representatives? If you disagree with the programs vote those who maintain them out of office.

        I doubt very many people in the valley have taken much time to truly investigate the scope of the minute-by-minute threats this country faces nor the scale of the mechanism needed to even begin to try to protect us…but once again, that’s why we vote people into office and thankfully we have a 1% who chooses to face the threat head-on.

        I agree our government needs to tell us enough to make informed decisions but there will always be those that refuse to accept anything they say as truth and others who will never be satisfied regardless of the level of access. No government program will exist without abuse but I find it staggering that you, and anyone else who lived through 9/11, would ever take a repeat event over what you have come to believe is a systemic targeting of American citizens by the government.

        • Dan – creating these very powerful tools creates the possiblity for their abuse. While I don’t question your dedication and that of many of your coworkers, do you agree that such tools could be used for great harm? Do you agree that there are many instances where administrators do use tools in a manner that is completely out of line with their mission and unethical?

          I generally don’t trust the “1%”. I didn’t vote for them. On many issues they clearly display their complete ignorance of the topics they vote on including some of those they are most vociferous about and that bothers me and fuels that mistrust.

          Just as Chris’s response is a cliche “of the masses” yours is a mirror image response of an elitist insider.

          I think it largely comes down to a few simple questions. Do you believe there is a right to private communications between individuals in the US? Do you belive that attempts to catalogue all communications in a wholesale fashion violates that right if it does exist?

          • Absolutely rkt88edmo, people will always abuse power and that is why the consequences of doing so should be huge. The responsibility of access is enormous and the vast majority in the system are some of the most selfless people you will ever meet. They are actually the 1% I speak of, not the financial elite. The fact is actually fewer than 1% ever wear a uniform and put their lives on the line and I am incredibly humbled that I was even allowed to be part of the system…unfortunately, that 1% is often mischaracterized because of the actions of the political leadership or a few bad apples that made it past the boards.

            I believe in all of the rights put forth by the founders, I swore my life to defend them. The fact is however that I never worked in a system that abused the populace. I know nobody in the system that ever complained of such abuses. Cataloging communications is hardly listening in on your phone call although I respect the fear of scope creep. In the end, I want safety and that isn’t as simple as so many people seem to believe it is.

        • Sam says:

          > I agree our government needs to tell us enough to make informed decisions

          Which they obviously aren’t doing right now. We need to have at least some basic information about things like the NSA’s budget.

          And there is simply no place for secret courts in a free society, regardless of the cost.

      • CppThis says:

        While I don’t totally disagree with the “trade liberty for security and deserve neither” mantra (and I certainly don’t disagree that Big Tech has grossly abused its power to build its own for-profit spying network to the tune of hundreds of billions of IPO) the reality is there’s a lot of religious fanatics just waiting to kill everyone including themselves because it’s a ticket to paradise. Freedom is pointless if everyone’s dead, and making that happen is the only thing that a significant portion of the world population cares about. Whatever comes of all this spying mayhem needs to account for that.

      • Mcbeese says:

        “I would rather have another 9/11 than live in the society that prevented it through massive and complete surveillance as us as a people.”

        I’m sure that all those who lost loved ones 12 years ago would disagree that the privacy of your emails, tweets, google searches, etc., are more important than the people they lost.

        Please help me understand how giving up Internet privacy to the government security agencies for safety is the loss of liberty. I don’t get it. The government is welcome to scan my Internet traffic. I don’t care. The government doesn’t have access to anything that the nerdy IT guys at your work or your carrier have been snooping for years. I understand there is a risk of abuse, but so far the security we’ve benefitted from has far outweighed the risks. If that changes, we all have ballots that we can use to elect different representatives.

        • Michael Arrington says:

          From http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/inside-the-effort-to-crowdfund-nsa-proof-email-and-chat-services

          “What surveillance really is, at its root, is a highly effective form of social control,” reads an August Riseup newsletter. “The knowledge of always being watched changes our behavior and stifles dissent. The inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there is no longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or implied. Most profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to eliminate the most vital element of both democracy and social movements: the mental space for people to form dissenting and unpopular views.”

          Without freedom we are lost.

          • Mcbeese says:

            “The knowledge of always being watched changes our behavior and stifles dissent. The inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there is no longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or implied. Most profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to eliminate the most vital element of both democracy and social movements: the mental space for people to form dissenting and unpopular views.”

            The preceding is an assertion, not fact, and it’s an assertion that I believe is wrong and completely unsupported by observed evidence. More Americans than ever before in our history are expressing dissent and associating freely–and they are not being suppressed or hauled away in the night. I see no shortage of dissenters, conspiracists, or expressers of unpopular views shouting from every Internet mountaintop in this country. The fact that Fox News and nut-jobs like Alex Jones are afforded such visible platforms for the spreading of false information and lunatic conspiracy theories is directly counter to the assertion above. Even in this thread, there is a crackpot who is accusing the government of being behind the 9/11 tragedy.

            Those who would do wrong and those who are simply paranoid are not happy with the NSA and how it is using tech for surveillance. I’m not concerned because I look at the evidence and see no reason to be. We’re a lot safer than we were 12 years ago and there is not rampant abuse happening with the information that is being collected.

            The ability to get on a plane and not worry about it being flown into a building, or to drive over a bridge and not worry about it being blown up, or to enjoy a beer in a cafe without worrying about a bomb going off, etc., etc.. are all examples of REAL everyday freedoms that I value more than the ability to send secret emails and do secret google searches. Is it a tradeoff? Sure, but it’s an easy choice.

    • As always if the price of safety is the giving up of liberty then I would say no as would a lot of people. Unfortunately there are enough like you who value security more. Liberty isn’t free. People have given their lives for it since the beginning of the country. Having access and using that access to information on and from people who have given no rational reason for suspicion is wrong, unconstitutional and un-American.

      This is not to mention that the potential for abuse is incredible, dangerous and damaging to innocent people. Heck, we wouldn’t even now know about all this except for someone who got access with almost no vetting (sounds like the navigators in Obamacare) downloaded all of this stuff and moved to Russia.

      The NSA has a very vital role in protecting this country, they don’t have to spy on the people they are protecting to do it.

      • Michael Arrington says:

        I don’t believe we get any security, it’s all bullshit. We have a foreign policy that creates enemies, then we crush human rights in order to supposedly fight those enemies.

        • Mcbeese says:

          I may disagree with much of your position, but I agree 1000% with “We have a foreign policy that creates enemies, then we crush human rights in order to supposedly fight those enemies.”

      • Hey Alvin, wasn’t one of the Boston bombers a citizen? Sure the potential for abuse is huge and that is why the consequences for doing so should be huge.

        • @Dan – responding to our thread above, as it no longer will let me reply there. Thank you for the well thought out response.

          How can the consequences be huge when we have no (transparency) idea of what is going on or when abuses are taking place? The DEA docs show the use of “parallel investigations” to dummy up a path of evidence that was originally obtained innapropriately.

          How can we rely on those in the ivory tower to police themselves?

          If we allow these most powerful tools w/o openess and monitoring then we are living under a benevolent dictatorship, and it seems like you are ok with that based on your experience with your coworkers. I’m not, it is just one small step away from a malevolent dictatorship and we have historical examples of the results. But I think you know this and we just disagree on the ends justifying the means.

          • Mcbeese says:

            “If we allow these most powerful tools w/o openess and monitoring then we are living under a benevolent dictatorship, and it seems like you are ok with that based on your experience with your coworkers. I’m not, it is just one small step away from a malevolent dictatorship and we have historical examples of the results.”

            Respectfully, I think the preceding statement is nonsense. We have elections that shape our leadership every two years, and elections for the person at the top every four years. That is not any form of dictatorship. Just watch how much of an issue NSA policy becomes in 2014 and 2016. I believe that will be a major part of many candidates platforms.

            We don’t have any historical examples in this country of what you describe. Could it happen? Yes, but it would first require a significant ‘event’ to transform the fabric of this country. Something catastrophic like the Ryan budget might do it, but other than that, we’re in pretty good shape given the madness in the world as a whole. Come to think of it, our health care delivery is the worst in the developed world, our public education is eroding and heading down a similar path towards becoming uncompetitive, and we have a collective blind spot when it comes to our unhealthy obsession with guns. Uh oh… maybe the event I’m thinking of is the collapse of the educated middle class.

            You know what I worry about a lot more than NSA surveillance? The dumbing down and brainwashing of American society with all kinds of conspiracy theories and false news. I fear what WE are becoming more than I fear government actions.

  10. GeorgeV says:

    Been loving your outrage and articles about this, Mike. Keep’em coming!

  11. Ric says:

    What is I told you I had an idea that would prevent this type of abuse in the future? No only that but make money and completely disrupt an industry? Contact me!

  12. Nit says:

    I must be thick, because I have never heard of a viscous cycle before.

    • Raymond says:

      … it is called “illiteracy” an ubiquitous, pervasive condition that, unfortunately, has infected the younger generation… another example: see “viscous” cycle above…

      • Derek Kerton says:

        Nit: Well played. I am pretty sure the Viscous Cycle restricts the free flow of circular information. But if I’m right, once things heat up, we’ll see movement.

        PS: I’m pretty sure Raymond is running a 20W-50 to your 5w-30.

  13. opendomain says:

    What is I told you that my new startup has a way to prevent this problem from ever happening again and is profitable? Contact me Ric AT Free dot TV

  14. MedicalQuack says:

    You are right about the evils and it comes down to data selling for profit…and there are few good ones out there that have a real simple privacy statement “we don’t sell your data”..I like the Tri-Coder from Scanadu and the sock sensors from Heapsylon too. Both companies relied on crowd funding to raise money too and are working on business models that don’t incorporate selling data..I keep telling all this an epidemic and why the tangible folks are behind 8 ball as everyone wants “easy” money and wants to sell new analytics every time they query a couple data bases. Money is big here and I keep using Walgreens as the poster child making around a billion a year selling data, so how big is that pool when you bring in banks and lot of others, huge.

    It’s sad it had worked out this way but its behind the scenes and few recognize it as it is a pretty well hidden intangible and of course nobody wants those dollar numbers out there on what it brings in. There’s your evil part of it. We have lawyers running government agencies which by trade or normally reactive and that’s what their job is mostly, research after the fact and there are of course several areas to where that may not apply fully, like when writing a privacy policy for a website that can confuse the hell out of all of us…you say “what did I just read”…(grin)…

    We need more tangibles out there and new technologies to help them..we don’t do enough as it’s too easy to take Algo Duping route to profit…sad. Just like anything when it gets over crowded it will become more difficult to make a buck a the studies and reports will get skewed almost beyond belief to substantiate some of it, actually seeing some of that now.

    Good video presentation here form Charlie Siefe, (mathematician) who wrote the book “Proofiness the Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception at the link below..teaches you to not suck everything in and be a skeptic when you need to be…he explains in a way consumers can get some of this too and even tells you what a P value is..and interesting at the end of his talk about the big error the Reagan era made relative to nuclear testing, government used the the wrong models as they wanted to make a case against all the recommendations by geologists, etc. We still have that to deal with and maybe part of our strained relation with Russia too…anyway, great video.


    Context is everything and when things get manipulated out of context. well I think that’s the evil that lurks out there as it disrupts and hard to tell the difference between the honest and the folks who just write code for money and exploiting data, forgetting about the end effect it has on the end consumer, and some of those folks don’t even use the consumer apps they create either..seen that one too…about the money.

  15. madeopen says:

    Michael, I can answer some of your questions, but more importantly, I can show you a perspective that allows you to answer your own questions. I am at disrupt. I am not pitching anything, just a perspective. Thank you for asking questions.

  16. engineer says:

    In occupied France they had a word for these people– collaborators.

    It’s time to name and shame. I’m starting with you, Tim Cook. When is Apple going to file suit against the government for violating Apple’s rights to keep customer info private?

    Same thing to the dickheads at Google, and Microsoft and Yahoo and Facebook and Amazon?

    Jeff Bezos has been a collaborator for 10 years, since the idea that someone reading “War and peace” might be a terrorist and therefore Amazon started handing over book sales info.

    This should not be tolerated.

  17. madeopen says:

    Michael, I can answer some of your questions, but more importantly I can show you a perspective that will allow you to answer your own questions. I am at disrupt. A small shift in perspective makes the problems and solutions obvious. Thank you for asking questions.


  18. Robert Burns says:

    Thank you for discussing the “Snowden Effect”!

  19. You mentioned Ron Conway, suggesting his prior experience in lobbying for gun control would make him a great candidate for lobbying against the NSA’s violation of the 4th amendment.

    This doesn’t follow.

    Cantor is arguing against the 2nd Amendment. You’re saying his experience in arguing against the 2nd Amendment will aid him in…upholding…the 4th Amendment? He’s not exactly a champion of the Constitution.

    If the government really is going bad, we should stick to the Constitution as our plumbline and motivator for changing the government.

  20. Dennis says:

    Enjoyed reading. We need journalists like you in germany.

  21. Yuhong Bao says:

    From http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/13/4426420/twitter-prism-alex-macgillivray-NSA-government
    “Twitter founders Evan Williams and Jason Goldman knew Macgillivray at Google, and they hired him because he shared their ideals”
    Seems that they hired him from Google back in 2009:
    And it looks like Google joined PRISM back in 2009 according to the slides:

  22. I haven’t watched the discussion with Ron Conway yet, but the part that can’t be dodged is that


    The NSA and privacy debate overlaps with the firearms ownership debate. Ron can’t sit out one completely while still addressing the other.

    Stop the WAR ON FREEDOM – war on drugs, war on privacy, war on guns, war on technology – they all fall together. When someone espouses freedom in one area but not another they are just playing to their own personal preferences.

    Thanks for beating the drum Mike!

    ***I’m sorry, we can’t allow you (complete control of your hardware/such a fast net connection/a CPU with that much computing power) it could become part of a botnet and a risk to national security

  23. Paul says:

    Now obviously there are real concerns here, but aren’t they right?

    People _are_ mindless zombies who care more about losing reception than their data, and it _is_ the Jobs’ of the world that got the big brother data collection ball going. Worse than that, we idolize them and declare them geniuses for doing it – http://techcrunch.com/2009/11/26/steve-jobs-apple-1997/.

    The Internet Industry is hardly the moral high ground for respecting your privacy. Shame on us, but it wasn’t the government that did the de-humanizing here.

  24. And this is why I do not exist.

  25. Wendy Friedlander says:

    I think the development community has a lot of power in defining what technology gets created — we’re the ones making it. If we were to unite as a community and make a concrete definition of ethics, we could do a lot of good. Given the demand of technology and the limited supply of people who can fulfill it, we are in a good position. I think its easier for a developer to get another job than for a CEO to risk a company. Its also easier to conquer a single person or company that a diverse community.

  26. Duncan Bayne says:

    > For example, Right off the bat this morning I am going to ask Ron Conway, who has
    > pushed for gun control … He could do so much by leading an effort at real transparency,
    > and a real pushback against the government. But he hasn’t lifted a finger. I want to know
    > why.

    Tip: gun-control is an essentially authoritarian position.

  27. Keep it up, Mikey. I share your outrage with the deterioration of the Constitution and our rights.

  28. I think it’s important that you have the access and are prepared to ask the tough questions that need asking.

  29. Mike, I’m so encouraged that you’re bringing this issue out, especially to this audience. We’ve been showing an image of the constitution with a crossed-out 4th amendment for about 5 years now – warning folks that it’s likely to happen. Now it has happened. The constitution is the software that runs the country and a) it’s not being upheld and b) in the current political climate there’s no way of updating that software.

    Here’s the other question I don’t see asked enough (of elected officials). They all swore an oath to uphold the constitution against ALL threats. It’s the highest order bit. So what the f*** happened? What happened to their oath? Why aren’t they all resigning from embarrassment from letting major clauses just evaporate? Is there any legal framework to simply say “hey, er, you 100% violated your oath, so 100% you’re fired”?

    Keep up the outstanding work..

    Salim Ismail

  30. Although I can understand the inclination to believe that the existence of covert domestic spying programs are necessary to protect the republic, I feel it’s absolutely unacceptable to subvert the constitution in order to protect it. The ends do not justify the means; by any reasonable reading of the Federalist Papers these are acts of tyranny.

    “If the federal government should overpass the just bounds of its authority and make a tyrannical use of its powers, the people, whose creature it is, must appeal to the standard they have formed, and take such measures to redress the injury done to the Constitution as the exigency may suggest and prudence justify.”
    Alexander Hamilton – Federalist No. 33

  31. Lucifer says:

    Rights? What rights, we don’t need no stinking rights.

    Lie to me once shame on you, continually lie to me daily, shame on WE THE PEOPLE

  32. David says:

    Why would Ron Conway give a shit about NSA surveillance? Conway types are probably makinf money off of it via investments that serve Gov. contracts. His gun control efforts agianst the 2A are in leauge with the NSA’s trampling of the 4th.

    • Raymond says:

      Agree. We have to remember that in Silicon Valley, as well as in Hollywood, when some people get into real money, they feel the urge to “embrace” a cause… Conway knows that guns do not kill people — people kill people [with guns.] It is interesting his response to Arrington, in essence stating that he already have a “cause,” and Arrington could do something about “privacy,” “transparency,” etc. himself.
      In Silicon Valley, it is kind of fashionable to express support for “immigration reform,” even when most people [personal, informal research] are totally clueless about it… For instance, Steve Jobs’ widow, who is passionate about it, expressing that “we must do more about it” — for the sake of “fairness” [?]
      Well, what can we really do about it? Not much. Realistically, the federal government not only will not stop violating our rights, but their illegal, unconstitutional activities are expanding under this administration — and we will never know it, since a river of constant lies vigorously flows from Washington DC…

  33. poppsikle says:

    “I’m scared of our government and I’m disgusted by what little Silicon Valley has done to fight it.”

    Oh really? When I tried over the past 3 years to let TechCrunch know about what Topix was doing with the NSA, all I got for it was shadow-banned, on FB, obviously a very devious method of censorship. You weren’t scared of the government back then, why all the effort was going into suppressing the data-sharing, into hiding what the NSA was doing with the Tech companies. To act like a tough guy now, facing down the NSA, is just making up for the lack of past action. Now you have to say something, the cat is out of the bag.

    But if you really are serious and want to turn over a new leaf, then call out the role Topix has played with the NSA, lets see some transparency that shows some real character and guts.

    I’m all for new beginnings, for integrity and real courage. The massive harm and violations of our security, must be halted, the culprits called out.

  34. madeopen says:

    The conversation that ends all conversations about data privacy is the conversation about data ownership. Talking about data privacy assumes someone else owns your data. With ownership, your rights to privacy are clear. We need to be talking about what it means to own your data. If someone else can take your data and make billions of dollars, then I think we can take it from here…thanks for the proof of concept Zuck et al.

  35. CppThis says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all this bullshit the NSA has been doing is done through the same infrastructure that SV built to spy on willing participants. Including many of the startups that you and others spent years fawning over. There is essentially no difference between what the US intelligence community is doing and what Facebook, Google et al are doing save for the fact that those companies get lots of stock market money for doing it and everyone treats them like living gods for offering “free” services. Ponder for a moment what this truly means and then perhaps we can start to address the real problem and possible solutions.

  36. There’s a lot more being done as “projects” right now, which might become startups later, to push back against NSA than you probably know about. Basically everyone I know from Crypto Wars 1.0 in the 1990s is working on a variety of things now.

    So, 2013 sucked, but 2014 is going to be amazing. Not sure if there’s a place for VCs, since it’s a lot easier to pressure rich GPs or rich LPs than pressuring cypherpunks, but there are some angels active in the space.

  37. Tim Simeonov says:

    Michael, thank you for being real. I enjoyed all of your interviews at Disrupt. The rest of the TechCrunch moderators are just doing infomercials – what a shame.
    Your assessment on NSA and the Silicon Valey response or the lack of it is unfortunately true. All are just looking to become rich zombies. Sad.

  38. Mcbeese says:

    I’m scared of this country for an entirely different reason.

    I don’t care about the NSA stuff (they can peek at my Internet activity all they want) and I think the 2nd Amendment is being wantonly misinterpreted and is a mental sickness that leads to thousands of unnecessary deaths. The data speaks for itself.

    BUT, that’s not what scares me.

    What scares me is that this country almost sided with Al Qaeda in their civil war with Hezbollah in Syria. A Nobel Peace Prize recipient was pushing for the bombing and killing of Syrians to ‘save face’ and demonstrate that we’re serious and we would only tolerate Syrians killing Syrians using conventional weapons.

    We had Kerry swearing up and down that this would be an ‘unbelievably small’ engagement, but there were no answers to the question of what would happen if Syria or Iran lobbed some sarin gas into Israel in response to our unbelievably small actions.

    We have Senators and Congresspeople who are criticizing the President for choosing an emerging diplomatic solution over war because “we said we would”. OMG. Unbelievable.

    I am scared shitless by our leadership’s irresponsible and incompetent willingness to casually go to war. WTF?

    it feels like the wheels are about to come off.

  39. poppsikle says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with using the word: Evil to explain how bad things can get when authoritarianism rears is greedy, arrogant, brutal head… But, that word can be applied to corrupt Tech as well, as I know from experience.

    Them working together is a toxic disaster for humankind. Don’t leave this fight, just make sure all guilty are brought to heel.

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