It's great that there's a discussion online today about whether or not the tech companies had a way to resist the US govt, if they believed that it was wrong to share information about their users without users knowing.
There is a way around it. They could reverse the process of centralizing user information on their servers.
(It's never been decentralized at a transport level. There are several main peering points, and the name system is a hierarchy.)
Google and Facebook could have, together, easily defined new standards for distributing information in ways that would make it harder for the government to tap in. At least they could have avoided being responsible for it themselves.
Or they could have been supportive of standards that decentralize, like one that's dear to me -- RSS. Instead they undermined it. In Google's case, in a fairly horrific way. Did they ever say they'd never come back to RSS if we manage to reboot it after cleaning up their mess? A mess that they offered absolutely no help with.
Twitter had the biggest opportunity to create a free-flowing federated network of free users. They could have given us a new layer the way the web did in 1992. Instead, they sucked in all the energy created by developers and did the same thing the others did -- centralized. Goodbye freedom. Hello NSA.
They brought this on, they're the cause of the mess we're in now.
I have no sympathy for them. They could still get out of the hotseat. There would be nothing illegal about them telling the world that they made a huge mistake by centralizing everything, and now they're going to reverse the process. They don't have to say what the consequences of that mistake are, we all know, thanks to Glenn Greenwald.
What could the government do? They'd be alone.
Of course, no one in their right mind believes they would do it.
Because having the govt as a partner, as Citibank and Chase found out, is a great business plan. Too big to fail now clearly applies in tech too.