Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has given his enthusiastic support for the National Security Agency’s global surveillance of the internet and everyone on it.
In a CBS interview, Ellison said some things people were saying about the NSA were misleading. He said that data was already being collected long before the NSA was seeing it, besides, firms like credit card companies had all this data long before the NSA.
There are some significant differences between a credit card company building a file on you and the most powerful government of the world potentially keeping files on absolutely everyone. Credit card companies usually don’t have the power to arrest you and lock you up in solitary for the rest of your life, either, and we can’t think of a single time a failed card application confiscated someone’s passport.
Ellison said that the privacy debate is “fascinating” to him as he has never heard of information being misused by the government. He can’t have been looking very hard or has had his fingers in his ears.
Clearly Ellison has never heard of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which said that on at least one occasion, the Fourth Amendment protections of an American citizen were violated. Through collusion with other allies such as the United Kingdom, it is possible for the US to get around irritating technicalities like Amendment protections – so in all likelihood it was many more.
The NSA, though, is as transparent as a brick, so most details about the spying programmes were classified for “national security” and would have never been revealed if not for the actions of a whistleblower, Edward Snowden, who was horrified by the actions of his representatives.
Ellison said that surveillance is “great” and “essential”, citing the need to minimise terror attacks like in Boston. But blanket surveillance of citizens did not stop that tragedy from happening, and the FBI even admitted snooping could not have flagged the Boston bombers.
Ellison admits that he is a little concerned about the possibily of the technology being used for political targeting rather than terrorism, but the US government would never do that – would it?
Why, then, could Ellison be such an enthusiastic supporter of the NSA spying programme? Well, the answer is that the technology does not come cheap and a top supplier for the NSA just happens to be Larry Ellison’s Oracle.
Oracle, the Atlantic points out, also solicits other defence contracts and just last June signed a $680 million deal with the Defense Information Systems Agency.
Based on that, Ellison is never going to question the antics of one of his best customers using gear his company has designed. In fact , the way Ellison downplays the Snowden revelations is downright misleading. The extreme, systemic surveillance, and collaboration between US allies to get around pesky barriers like the constitution, is one of the most important stories this decade.