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Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Internet firms’ reaction to NSA spying

It is about revenue because corporations are profit-generating entities

The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

The National Security Agency tracks the locations of nearly 5 billion cellphones every day overseas, including those belonging to Americans abroad, The Washington Post reported Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

The Times’ article on the reaction of Internet firms to Edward Snowden’s revelations missed a critical detail [“8 Internet firms unite in call to rein in U.S. spying,” page one, Dec. 9].

It is true that telecom operators have not joined Internet companies in actively lobbying Congress for public controls over NSA spying. The article attributes this to a more libertarian ideology among new tech firms versus a more pro-government ideology among old tech firms.

There is a much less abstract explanation for this difference in behavior. Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, etc., derive large portions of their income from international markets. So their bottom line would be threatened by other governments encouraging the use of open-source software (like Brazil and Venezuela have), or the European Union and/or the Mercosur trading block in South America promoting local alternatives to Gmail and Yahoo.

On the other hand, Verizon and AT&T derive insignificant revenue from international operations and can therefore afford to remain silent — my colleagues in the Brazil office don’t use Verizon, and I can’t switch my cell service to Brasil Telecom.

In the end it is about revenue because (silly statements from our Supreme Court notwithstanding) corporations are not humans with belief systems. They are profit-generating entities.

— Aram Falsafi, Seattle

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