Not sure why the concern on privacy has been focused on the government. There has been no mention for people on the ability of their companies, exes, and even the random stalker to snoop their online activities.

Previous companies, I've worked for had people with the capability to snoop and listen through my personal phone, see what's happening on my Windows OS, and see my online search history. I've also have experience with this with a offline groups. I like theories and ideas, so I joined a free thinking club years ago. Little did I know it was an atheist organization. I've been confronted at companies on that fact. Even though I'm no atheist, it's really scary for some people.

Explore the wrong keyword online, join the wrong group, or talk about the wrong thing and it can become big news even years later.

Why is the news so nonchalant about this aspect of normal life privacy and focuses completely on the government? It seems that people should be made more aware of the former rather than the latter.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Stephane, RoraΖ, Xander, schroeder, Gilles Jul 13 '15 at 16:49

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I like the premise of this question given that so many people seem comfortable giving up all kinds of information to places like Facebook and only after it is revealed that they have ties to nation state intelligence agencies is it a problem. But to be blunt, there is a lot of concern over how much information is stored and indexed and regurgitated for the right price. This has been going on for a long time, if you have never heard of LexisNexis you will probably be interested to know that every detail of your life has been secretly chronicled (for profit) since the day you were born. – Jeff Meden Jul 13 '15 at 13:19
  • I think you have a lot of unstated and perhaps unexamined assumptions in this question. – schroeder Jul 13 '15 at 15:25
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about sociology, not about security. – Gilles Jul 13 '15 at 16:49

In a privacy or security scenario, 'government' is normally just a proxy for any entity with a lot of resources. If a system doesn't leak information even against an adversary with billions of dollars in resources it won't also leak information against a different adversary with less resources.

There is also the aspect of rule of law trumping technology. Take dropbox for example. Dropbox has the decryption keys for files stored. Dropbox does (or tries to do) a good job securing those keys. Dropbox may do such a good job that no technical adversary could steal the keys. However if dropbox gets a court order demanding they turn over the keys. Now if dropbox (or a secure alternative) had no keys to turn over because it uses client side encryption then it would be immune to that line of attack as well. Both your neighbor hacker and the government can try to hack dropbox but only one can compel dropbox by a court order.


Your basic premise is flawed, I'm afraid. The same rules apply (in most jurisdictions) to government as companies. They can all typically review their staff emails, browsing habits etc., as the infrastructure is owned by them.

If you conduct any company work on your personal device, many companies will have contract terms to allow them to look at the device too.

So the news focus on governments is that they can look into habits of the whole population, which companies don't tend to do.

Additionally - the media is a huge problem: they can hype any news item. And to be honest, in terms of news, a whole country's population is much more exciting to a newspaper than a few employees - in most cases.

  • I'm talking about personal computer and phones. It's not company owned. I mentioned the word personal phone up there as well. I'm not as concerned with government snooping, but more on company snooping on assets not owned by them. – Da_Brahdahud Jul 13 '15 at 12:50
  • @Da_Brahdahud the same dynamic still applies however. If you prevented (by technological means) a govt from snooping your phone you would also prevent any adversary from doing so. Since governments tend to have more resources preventing a governmental entity also defeats less capable adversaries but the reverse isn't true. If my body armor can stop a rifle round it can also stop a pistol round but the reverse isn't necessarily true. – Gerald Davis Jul 13 '15 at 12:55

The field of research in privacy is large and wide. Some people care about privacy against Evil Governments. Some care about privacy against Evil Corporations. Some care about privacy against Evil Neighbours.

In fact most, if not all, researchers that mind privacy and publish articles about privacy in online communications tend to think in terms of their own demons. For instance, any privacy-oriented talk from someone working from the EFF will always include a diatribe against the NSA -- because in their view of the World, which is both somewhat American-centric and slightly anarchic, privacy-related evil is governments, implicitly the US government, and thus their arch-enemy is the NSA.

Thus, when you observe some narrowness of scope in privacy-related research and papers, this means that you are in fact looking at the publications of a narrow selection of researchers.

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