Should the AT&T Merger Be Alarming?

Last week, AT&T announced its purchase of Time Warner for $85 billion, pending regulatory approval. This merger would undoubtedly create a new telecom and media behemoth.

While some praise the business acquisition, others are calling into question who will really be the beneficiary—executives and shareholders, or the customers?

If regulatory approval allows the purchase to become reality, Americans who pay for the services will just have to wait and see the impact the deal will have on their services and bill.

Meanwhile, what we can examine is the legal hurdles facing AT&T and their surveillance program, Hemisphere. This program created by AT&T was designed to help investigate serious crimes by storing customer data as far back as 2008. The Daily Beastreports that Hemisphere’s data has been sold to local police departments investigating low profile crimes, and the taxpayers are funding it.

It is estimated that police departments are paying anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million per year to use Hemisphere. This allows law enforcement to monitor and access customer data without a warrant or need to disclose its use, per agreement with AT&T.

Here you have a company, who customers pay and entrust their private information with, who has taken that trust, turned around and built a product to sell that information to as many government agencies and police departments as possible.

The news comes on the heels of a similar mass surveillance program used by Yahoo at the behest of the NSA, which allegedly scanned users emails for ‘suspicious activity’ to inform law enforcement.

While our national security is of utmost importance, what are your thoughts on the cyber data tracking? Are you a customer of AT&T or use Yahoo’s email? If so, are you wary of their access, monitoring and storage of your data long after you’ve deleted it?

With the Time Warner deal in the midst, AT&T will hope to gain valuable data from Time Warner’s customers to add to their arsenal and sell both to law enforcement as well as to advertisers to further bulk their revenue stream.

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