Pete Ashdown: Internet entrepreneur pushes for govt that stands for 'basic human rights'

As US broadband giants betray customer privacy in the name of profit, the owner of a Utah-based internet company has stood up for his customers’ privacy, refusing to compromise his personal or professional integrity for warrantless wiretapping.

Pete Ashdown is the founder of XMission, an independent internet
service provider (ISP) based in Utah. The company has built a
stellar reputation among users concerned with protecting their
privacy.

His profile has been on the rise as of late because of his
company’s refusal to turn over customer data that is
requested by an administrative subpoena instead of a warrant.
Ashdown refuses to honor subpoena requests because they prove
that the government agency seeking the data did not, or was
unable, to provide “probable cause” mandated by the
Constitution.  

Verizon, AT&T, Google, Facebook, and other tech giants have
tried to maintain the public’s trust by blaming the government
for forcing them to turn over personal information. However, a
recent report indicated that some of the companies profited from
the turnover.  

When I started XMission in 1993, I was mainly trying to get a
stable Internet connection at home,
” Ashdown told RT. “I
had one where I worked, at [computer graphics company] Evans and
Sutherland, and where I was going to school at the University of
Utah, but home was sporadic. I figured if I needed one, there
were other techies like me who needed one too.”

When he founded XMission 20 years ago, Ashdown could never have
predicted how people would come to rely on technology in their
daily lives.

I honestly had no idea the Internet would become as
ubiquitous and essential as it is today,
” he said. “I
thought my server would live in a closest and I’d collect a tidy
check each month, and that would be the end of it.”

Frustrated by the lack of technology literate lawmakers in
Washington, Ashdown ran for Senate in 2006 and 2012 against
Republican Orrin Hatch, who has represented Utah since 1977.

As time went on, it became apparent to me that there was
nobody on the technology front in office in Washington
,” he
said. “There still isn’t anyone.”  

Pete Ashdown (Image from peteashdown.org)Ashdown’s consecutive losses came
as little surprise — Utah is consistently ranked among the most
conservative US states. But Ashdown still found himself
frustrated over the amount of money pervading politics. A
candidate running on their conscience is forced to run against a
machine that dominates both parties, he said.

I would need overwhelming outside financial support to
convince me to run for Congress again
,” Ashdown said. “I
ran against PAC money and for a constitutional amendment to
overturn Citizen’s United in 2012, and interests in the
Democratic Party campaigned against me for that reason. With a
number of disappointments from the Obama administration on civil
liberties, I find the modern Democratic Party quite distant from
my ideals.”

That disappointment is especially disheartening because of
Ashdown’s support for Obama in 2008, when much of the country was
hopeful that the first African-American president would lead the
nation away from post-September 11 paranoia.

I owned a building that the Utah for Obama office worked out
of in 2008. I walked door to door for President Obama with my
wife Robin, who also campaigned for him in Colorado. He has been
beyond disappointing for me. America needs another FDR more than
ever right now, someone who doesn’t cower to military and
financial interests and will stand for fundamental human
rights.”

Perhaps the only way for an individual to fight back against
invasive government tactics is by voting with dollars. The
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital-rights group, has
praised XMission, while the company’s transparency report proves
it is a model for start-ups looking to avoid the profit-first
attitude that pervades Google and the like. However, XMission
only offers email, web hosting, and cloud services for customers
outside Utah.

“If they don’t or can’t use XMission, I encourage them to
question the companies they do use, and if they don’t get an
answer they respect, look into a small local provider who may
take their concerns more seriously,
” Ashworth said.

The shift in public opinion is a direct result of the disclosures
made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward
Snowden, who revealed widespread government surveillance
targeting American citizens and visitors from abroad. Snowden,
who 55 per cent of Americans regard as a conscientious
whistleblower, has been demonized by lawmakers on both sides of
the aisle.

To hear some of the rhetoric about Snowden being a traitor
angers me,”
Ashdown said. “Snowden isn’t the one who
committed the crime. He reported the constitutional crimes of the
people who are running the agencies monitoring Americans. “

“If the government really wants to keep secret information
secret, they should follow the law and the Constitution in their
actions, not only here, but abroad. Don’t get me started on
Guantanamo.”

Republished with permission from: RT