Part of what makes totalitarian societies so bad is that you can never trust anyone. You never know who is the informant. In fact, the more trustworthy the person or institution you are dealing with seems to be the more desirable they are as a resource to be used against you and every effort will be made by the government to turn them into spies.
Recently we are seeing a lot of actions on the part of our government that seem to indicate they are recruiting some of our biggest companies to perform policing functions for them. This is not just limited to making them allow the NSA access to their information and our communications (which is intolerable in and of itself) but is actually being expanded to require them to actively look for wrongdoing and report it.
For instance FedEx was recently indicted for shipping packages containing illegal drugs sent by businesses who were their customers. Obviously the only way they could have prevented that would have been to open every package before shipping it and vet every company before doing business with them. We have seen this sort of thing with Operation Chokepoint where banks have been extorted into not doing business with certain industries lest they be harassed by the government and charged as accessories for the crime of providing their services to the wrong people. This is what FedEx had to say;
an indictment or prosecution would threaten a basic tenet of its shipping business — not opening packages. Revenue from online pharmaceutical shipments is a small percentage of total sales, the company previously said. FedEx reported $44.3 billion in revenue for fiscal 2013.
Obviously the easiest way for them to protect themselves is to stop doing business with online pharmacies or other businesses which are frowned upon by the authorities, which is really what the Feds want. Notice the government does not have to make a case against these pharmacies or obtain warrants for searches if they can get FedEx to do the dirty work for them. They are arguing since FedEx had been warned that illegal drugs might be shipped by this method that they are responsible for it when it actually occurs. Of course this is silly since then all it takes to shut a business down is for the authorities to warn the shipper that something might not be kosher… whether it is or isn’t. This is obviously not a system that would be acceptable in a free country.
Another recent abuse is both more troubling — and less troubling. Google has started searching e-mail sent through its Gmail service for child pornography. This is less troubling because there are potentially actual victims involved in child pornography as opposed to drug abuse. It is more troubling in that a company has been coaxed into searching our communications in search of crimes. Obviously text would be even easier to search and there is no limiting principle in place that says only child pornography will be looked for. What about plain, old fashioned adult pornography? What about political statements or affiliations? What if they found someone was doing business with an online pharmacy etc… It also brings up the interesting situation where Google keeps a large collection of child pornography on hand which it generates digital signatures from so that it can recognize when those images are transmitted. But this is itself supposed to be illegal. Possession is a crime regardless of the reason. So, even in the act of helping the government, Google puts itself at the mercy of the government who could shutter the entire company at any time.
I have lived long enough to see the sorts of things which once would have been considered intolerable outrages accepted with nary a peep. And now we have reached the point where we are always under surveillance by one entity or another. I see no possible way this will end well. It never does. In the meantime, who can you really trust?
It is this uncertainty and fearfulness which permeates surveillance states. And it is the co-opting of private businesses for public purposes which is the very definition of fascism.