For all Obama’s problems, can communication in the ‘social’ era now ever mean ‘private’?

So Edward Snowden has unleashed a bit of a landslide of opinion. Opinion, apparently, that the POTUS is now welcomes. [Does that mean Edward Snowden will get time off for performing a public service? – Ed].

Mark Mardell makes an interesting observation, to the effect that this is as much the changing use of data as politics and it has been borne into the public domain by a new type of techie:

It is probable that as the technology changed, intelligence services had to hugely increase the number of fairly low-level experts they employ.

Possibly, their background checks were less rigorous than in the past. Maybe the type of person recruited was more committed to a technology that has gone hand in hand with a vaguely libertarian ethos than a commitment to national security, whatever the implications for privacy and freedom.

Politically, the President is taking the can for this. Although one of his toughest opponents in Congress John Boehner is rowing right in behind him. Yet, it is the president’s own politics that have been compromised. James Tarantino:

“As for our common defense,” Barack Obama declared in his First Inaugural Address, “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. . . . Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

Last Friday the president said this: “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

And, of course, Maureen Dowd:

Back in 2007, Obama said he would not want to run an administration that was “Bush-Cheney lite.” He doesn’t have to worry. With prisoners denied due process at Gitmo starving themselves, with the C.I.A. not always aware who it’s killing with drones, with an overzealous approach to leaks, and with the government’s secret domestic spy business swelling, there’s nothing lite about it.

As Karlin Lillington notes in the Irish Times, the nub of the matter is that “a secret US court order that has allowed covert organisations to sift data from millions of US phone calls for seven years.” She goes on:

People all over the world use the services — Facebook, Skype, Google, among others — pinpointed in the revelations. Europeans are supposed to have specific protections for their personal data, greater than those afforded US citizens.

But how European data is managed by international companies, on computer servers that can be located “in the cloud” anywhere in the world, is not clearly understood, and remains a legal grey area. So does the level of co-operation between American and other countries’ surveillance agencies. Yesterday, parliamentary debate in the UK focused on just such questions.

“The cloud” is where American corporates like to stuff their tax liabilities only for the US Congress to accuse small countries like Ireland of being a tax haven when they discover they discover they’re getting light returns in their own corporate tax incomes.

And it is now where it’s drawing down its latest sources of intelligence. But then again, whoever imagined that any genuinely form of communication in the digital (in which all our networking leaves readable data traces) was ever going to remain truly ‘private’.

Edward Snowden has done us all a favour in releasing these secret state actions (and their targets in the cloud), but he may only be telling us what we should already have understood.

These days, nothing that happens in Vagas, ever stays in Vagas.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty