NSL-15-418616 : Tech Surrenders Your Data

A sparse conference room, with mesh metal chairs and an imitation-oak table. Three men are huddled at the table's corner, a national security letter in front of them. The conference phone has been disconnected and each man's smartphone is wrapped in tin-foil.


J is 38, co-founder & CTO of dopamine.io. He fiddles with a Free Software Foundation plush toy, a Gnu animal with the face of Richard Stallman.
M is 44, co-founder & CEO of dopamine.io. He motions his thumbs in midair, as if texting.
K is 32, a Senior Software Engineer at dopamine.io. He aggressively scans each phone in the room, repeatedly.



K: The Feds, they bugged the room. This is Black Panther shit.
M: Why would they send a National Security Letter if they bugged us? You're paranoid.
K: Plausible deniability! They're whispering sweet legalistic nothings. They want to fuck us, they're sending us the lawyer equivalent of "hey what u up tonight?" so they can fuck us.
J: Pig bastards are an affront to democracy. We absolutely cannot consent to demands for 5 years of user activity.
M: Let me drop a story on you, my friend. Once upon a time, there was a tiny startup who by the majestic graces of Startup God—
K: I call him Gödel-Escher-Bacchus.
M: —managed to acquire seed funding for an interstitial ad whose onboarding rates were through the fucking roof. Whose entire business strategy depends on reinforcing impulsive purchase decisions modeled on sexual-attention metrics—
K: Changing fuck positions is like changing tabs, really.
M: —so what it would look like if, this fairy-tale of a fucking business, made an enemy of the goddamn U.S. government? They'd eviscerate us in congressional hearings and get re-elected for it. We'd lose everything.
K: I can't go on the stand. I have peculiar interests, everything to hide, Jay Edgar Hoover's ghost would have a field day oh jesus christ.
J: This is tyranny! We can't honestly feed the feds the sexual metrics of our users? What about our commitment to privacy? All the encryption and anonymized algorithms, it's meaningless if the Feds just ask nicely?
M: You've had no problem collecting these metrics. Sex is already public if your phone has location services turned on.
K: My bed is a DIY farraday cage, the electric current nips you in the ass here and there but some would call that a feature, not a bug..
J: I firmly believed that if we were good caretakers of data, that if we were more secure than the assholes of this industry, it'd be okay to sell this product. But this goes too far.
M: Are you willing to lose your company over this? We have maybe 6 months of funding left. If we go to court with the Feds we'll drown in legal fees and have to firesale our laptops.
K: It'll be a Kangaroo court. Or a Koala court. Fuck, the aussies will be in on it too, Snowden warned us, Five Eyes, Five Eyes!
M: Are you willing to sacrifice your equity, J? For a few database queries?
J: ...
M: The users they requested, they're probably criminals. The Feds wouldn't be investigating them if they weren't. And it's only 5 people, it's a drop in the bucket.
J: ...
M: This may be the only letter we receive. We need to comply, for the sake of our business. This is politics, and politics is not our responsibility.
J: ...Alright.
M: Great. This is the right decision going forward. K, hit the databases and get the Feds their data.
K: Oh sweet merciful computer jesus thank you!


K removes his phone from tin-foil, which he then uses to wrap a sandwich before leaving the room. M discretely texts his lawyer on how to legally oust K from the company without paying severance. J shares an anti-Trump article on Facebook, which receives several likes.