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The Spying That Changed Big Tech

  • September 16, 2021

And maybe the biggest shift from the N.S.A.’s data siphoning was helping sour relations between the U.S. government and technology superpowers that is still playing out today.

“The era of quiet cooperation is over,” my colleagues David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth wrote in 2014, about a year after news organizations’ reporting from the Snowden documents. (Nicole has more on this in her recently published book, which I highly recommend.)

The trust gap between tech giants and leaders in the United States and other countries was probably inevitable, and in many ways it’s healthy. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are so rich and their products are so essential in our lives that they have become nearly as powerful as governments. It’s sensible to weigh whether Big Tech needs more government guardrails.

There remain areas of cooperation between the government and Big Tech, including military projects that some tech employees believe are dangerous. But there are other ways in which the hangover of the Snowden revelations has made it more difficult for tech companies and government officials to work together on helpful shared interests such as election security and improving technology expertise inside of government agencies.

Tech companies are responsible for the enmity, yes, but the government’s willingness to intrude on American companies is partly to blame, too.

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Tip of the Week

If you bought an iPhone 12 last week, you might have felt like a chump this week when Apple introduced the iPhone 13. (Or maybe you didn’t? Good for you!) Brian X. Chen explains how to know when we’re at risk of a newly bought device becoming old news just after it was purchased.

I’ve written plenty about how to determine that it’s time to call it quits on a piece of technology and consider an upgrade. And when you are ready for a new model, it’s also important to figure out the right time to buy.

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