Private companies are going to use that information if they get it at all to try to make a profit from their products. They aren't going to use it to control our political speech. They will try to convince us to buy their products, but they won't try to convince us to start an illegal war or hate the people of another country or agree to waste money on more surveillance.
Private companies are somewhat controlled by their obligation to make money for their owners or shareholders. It isn't much solace when compared to the amount of information they have about us, but it is some.
When the government has this information, it can use it for purposes that destroy meaningful democratic government or even any illusion of meaningful democratic elections or government or decision-making.
And above all, when we say that the government has this information, what we really mean is that a tiny clique in the government, a clique that is part of and controls our domestic and foreign military power and legal power over people's lives here and around the world. They have that information. That information that I hypothetically took from your mailbox, and unlike private companies, they can easily access all your information, not just your phone bill but your electric bill, your charges at Walmart, everything that you have entrusted to electronic transmissions.
And that tiny clique has your information, all the details of your life in their possession. Maybe they won't use it. Maybe they will.
But what is unacceptable is having that much information on so many Americans in the hands, in the databases of so few. It is like the Middle Ages where you had to check in and out at a gate as you came in and went out of town. Your movements, that vacation in Maine, that call to your old high school boyfriend in Florida, the phone return you made to Verizon, the big bills you ran up talking to your son in Ireland? All of it is within the files of a small clique of people. Do they access all of it all the time? No. But it is within their discretion to access any or all of it at any time.
East Germany did not have the capacity to place their nation under surveillance that our NSA has, and yet they wreaked havoc in the lives of East Germans.
Giving the NSA the authority to acquire all this information is too great a temptation, too great a power for government. I'm no libertarian, but I do know a bit about history.
This is the most dangerous program I have ever heard of.