Wired.com asks Rand Paul a few questions. They’re mostly about due process and BO killing Americans with drones without a trial – those things for which Rand Paul fillibustered a few months ago. It’s a good series of questions.
But here’s a really good question and Rand nails it (DR = Danger Room = Wired.com column):
DR: You’re in the Valley to meet with Facebook and Google. Neither company is really known for its commitment to privacy, and each makes money off your personal information. So what’s your message to those companies?
RP: That’s not exactly true. I don’t entirely accept that premise. What I would say is you can track with Google, and share some information to get a service. It’s an exchange. As long as it’s part of an exchange and they uphold your contract, I’m all for that. What I worry about is where the government comes in, through the Patriot Act, and says you can’t be sued for giving [subscriber] information to the government. So my message to them will be to stand up and defend privacy. Ultimately, the people going after privacy are the government, and if people mistake Google for government, then we’re in for a big problem. If people begin to mistake Gmail for Government-Mail, they’re liable to get swept up in the same net of people supporting privacy. I see a distinction, and I think it’s in their interest as a company to fight hard for privacy, fight hard to protect the contractual arrangement their customers have with them.
Rand recognizes the very important difference between freedom and force. If you use Google, then you’re giving up whatever they ask you to give up to use their service. That might be privacy (searching your email to target ads at you) or whatever. But this is voluntary. You don’t have to use Google. The government, on the other hand, can use force. It can point a gun at you and say “do this or go to jail”. It’s very different. And Rand Paul clearly gets it. (And the fact that the Wired.com report asks the question the way he does makes me think that he doesn’t get it.)