Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch Disrupt appearances will challenge tech’s silence on NSA spy scandal

Michael Arrington is about to go off, and it could be a good thing.

In a blog post on his uncrunched.com, Arrington, the TechCrunch founder who’s known to speak his mind, has promised to use his TechCrunch Disrupt appearances this week to hold the masters of the tech world accountable for widespread government snooping.

For years the National Security Agency apparently has been secretly scooping up our email, sneaking into our online accounts through digital backdoors and doing god knows what else all in the name of “because we can.”

And now the victims of the snooping (which appears to be pretty much all of us) are about to unleash a secret weapon: Arrington. (OK, not so secret.)

“In all cases I will ask the questions,” Arrington writes on uncrunched. “We are inundated with denials and narrowly tailored ‘transparency reports’, but no company has stepped forward to tell us exactly what is really going on, and why the government seems so optimistic about being able to get user data from companies in real time or near real time, without any judicial oversight.

“I’ll ask the CEOs if they feel any responsibility to protect their users against clearly unconstitutional (and just plain icky) government data grabs. I’ll ask them what they are willing to do, if they do feel responsible, to protect those users.”

I’ve been looking for these answers since early this summer and I’ll be watching Arrington closely. For those who can’t make his sessions at Disrupt (and that does include me), he says he’ll write a follow-up post summarizing what he learns.

The delicious thing here is that Arrington appears to have few onstage governors. The guy just goes. You might recall his hot-button interview in Soledad O’Brien’s documentary exploring the world of black entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

The take away quote? “I don’t know a single black entrepreneur.”

Let’s just say it caused a little back and forth. Arrington posted an elaboration on the comment and a defense of himself. O’Brien posted a response. And the debate raged on for days.

So what can we expect from Arrington’s Disrupt sessions? Let’s just say he has the ability to get his subjects to open up at Disrupt. Remember the Carol Bartz interview? You remember Bartz. She was CEO of Yahoo at the time.

Bartz was known for salty language and she lived up to her billing, telling Arrington at one point to F-off. The video is below. Shield the kids.

Probably we’ve all felt, at one time or another, like offering Arrington the same suggestion. But this week,  as he starts asking the questions we should all be asking, I can only wish him the best.

(Photo: Michael Arrington interviews Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at TechCrunch Disrupt last year — by Mercury News photographer Nhat V. Meyer.)





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  • Walt Bobrowski

    I haven’t seen any tech CEO going to jail over their refusal to comply with NSA demands. Only Marissa Mayer came close when attempting to secure classified documents to prove her ‘contempt’ of NSA demands, but that was only after the fact, and a half-baked attempt of grandstanding puffery.