Daily Ticker

How to escape the dragnet of Google, Facebook and America's surveillance economy

President Obama plans to ask Congress to end the bulk collection and storage of phone records by the National Security Agency, according to senior administration officials this week.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden in statement provided to the American Civil Liberties Union responded to the Obama Administration's NSA Reform Plan: "This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public's seat at the table of government."

It's the latest in a surveillance story that extends far beyond the reach of government, to companies that track and sell personal information for commercial reasons.

"Most of the technology we use we either underpay for or we don't pay for, and we pay with our data," explains Julia Angwin, author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance. For companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), "that's how they make money." As for how much our data is worth when its sold on the market? Angwin found hers was only worth about 28 cents. And yet it's not so easy (or cheap) to escape prying eyes.

Related: Google acquires Nest: Is it one step closer to being 'Big Brother'?

For her book, Angwin tried to avoid the dragnet of surveillance and says she was only 50% successful. Angwin also says the more information companies have about your spending, the more likely they will be able to alter prices for your purchases to reflect your personal ability to pay.

Related: How to keep companies from tracking you online — for good

Online surveillance hasn't been a total win for business. The New York Times reports U.S. technology companies like Microsoft (MSFT) have lost customers after details of the NSA surveillance revelations were leaked, as tech companies abroad are reportedly gaining customers. IBM (IBM) is spending a billion dollars on data centers overseas to assuage foreign customers' concerns about spying. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently raised the issue at the White House.

Related: Furious Tech Giants Fight Back Against NSA Surveillance

In reaction to the privacy concerns, tech companies are taking an aggressive stance, says Angwin. They've now "erected really high walls around their data." The irony is that for a lot of their businesses, they're "offering our data as a lure for marketing and that they're not as concerned about." 

Check out the video for her tips on how to protect yourself online.

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