When we as citizens told our government it was OK to collect information on private citizens via the Patriot Act in the name of security, why are we surprised by Snowden's media circus? He's a low level guy with a pole dancer girlfriend that, in order to get his Top Secret clearance, signed an agreement with the government not to release secrets. Is Booz Allen, his sponsor and conduit for taxpayer money, in trouble? Nope.
The real privacy invaders are corporations - phone and cable companies, internet providers, and banks. Where does the government get their information? Companies like AT&T, Verizon, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Comcast, Cox, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, Chase, etc...collect massive amounts of data in the name of marketing and they sell your information to all manner of bidders. And many times you don't even know you've opted in. Google admitted this week in response to wiretapping lawsuits over scanning email to serve up targeted ads: "all users of email must necessarily expect their emails will be subject to automated processing".
Decades ago I worked for a software firm that wanted to release a product that would only postal mail items to your home that you had an interest in - essentially controlling wasteful 3rd class mail. The ACLU took us to court, stating that we weren't allowed to know what people's buying patterns were, down to the neighborhood and individual level. Under hearings, they asked where we got the information. We replied, the US Postal Service - where this information is available for purchase even today.
Fast forward to today. Everything you do is collected online and your cookies shared everywhere. There are smart device location services that know where you are and where and how you're shopping and what you're buying. Many stores and venues start tracking your phone when you're within their geofence, will push ads at you, track your time in specific aisles, follow your movement, track your purchasing habits and frequencies. When you call for bank information and you talk to a call center in another country, think about the elements they use to identify you - social security, account number, name, address - your information is shared worldwide. Where do you think Google gets their revenue - advertising - increasingly monitoring your searches and delivering ads based on your interests. The industry calls these "learning services". We may harp about the data collection of Federal agencies like the NSA and others, but we should remember where they get the data. Our ecommerce, email, browsing and social footprints are being mined by the people who want to sell us stuff.
This is why our children migrate quickly to the next big thing on social media - when they find out It's all about the buying and selling of their information and not so much socializing, they move on. Facebook is now losing teens as they migrate to Twitter and Pinterest, until Twitter goes IPO and needs to show profit from advertising. After these merchants finish merging into a few survivors, it's becoming more about controlling the content - it's access and speed. And as the public and our allies in other countries rail against the government for watching them, remember the companies who gave them or facilitated access in the first place.