Google Warns That NSA Is Breaking Internet


Wikimedia Commons

The tech industry continues to play Cassandra, warning anyone who will listen that federal surveillance practices could have dire consequences if the National Security Agency (NSA) continues on its course. At a recent Silicon Valley event, Google's Eric Schmidt cautioned that the NSA is a bull in a virtual china shop threatening to break the Internet as we know it. The Hill's Julian Hattem reports:

Schmidt said the revelations about U.S. surveillance could prompt countries to wall off their networks. "The simplest outcome: We're going to end up breaking the Internet," Schmidt said, "because what's going to happen is governments will do bad laws of one kind or another, and eventually what's going to happen is: 'We're going to have our own Internet in our own country, and we're going to do it our way.'"

Fearing the pervasive powers of the NSA—or perhaps feeling a bit jealous—foreign governments have already begun imposing limits on American tech companies and erecting barriers in the name of protecting data:

Some countries, including Russia, have taken steps to require that companies keep data centers within their geographic borders — a potentially prohibitive cost for start-ups and small companies.

Many in the tech industry predict a so-called balkanization of the Internet, that is, a curtailment of the free flow of information between countries. Such restrictions could establish "nationalistic clouds" for data storage within individual countries. Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie recently warned that this could jeopardize global commerce itself, saying it "would be an incredibly bad outcome for the type of interconnectedness we're starting to see from global companies."

Michael Kickins echoes Levie, writing in The Wall Street Journal:

CIOs of multinational companies may have to find multiple vendors to host applications or internal software development platforms in the cloud — defeating one of the benefits of cloud-based services, namely simplification.

Large companies like Amazon have taken steps to anticipate the coming data fragmentation, although, as Kickins writes, "these investments are hardly trivial, even for such large vendors."

The biggest loser in this fiasco—other than us plebs whose privacy is being violated—is America's tech industry. As domestic surveillance becomes more of a concern, distrustful consumers and governments may seek to take their business elsewhere. Writes Hattem:

According to analysis firm Forrester Research, the losses for the tech industry from the NSA backlash could amount to as much as $180 billion over the next two years.

Schmidt's warnings should not be taken lightly, especially by those in Congress with the power to reign in the NSA's excesses. But lawmakers seem content to blithely look the other way, skipping town before voting on the issue and continuing to let the tech industry's admonitions fall on deaf ears.

NEXT: Coercion Dressed Up As Compassion for L.A.'s Teen 'Sex Trafficking' Victims

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What is that? A Georgia O’Keeffe painting?

    1. Early Sauron Phase.

    2. So vagina wasn’t the first thing you thing thought? There is something wrong with one us.

      1. Definitely thought they were calling the NSA big fiery vaginas. Did I miss something?

      2. Perhaps the one of us unfamiliar with that artist’s work and what it suggests.

        ART BURN.

  2. The biggest loser in this fiasco?other than us plebs whose privacy is being violated?is America’s tech industry.

    I don’t want to live in a country where tech giants don’t have the clout to change political policy.

  3. Schmidt explaining the dangers of the NSA is about as believable as convicted rapist talking about the dangers of condom breaking.

    1. This +1000. Google is worried about the internet – they just don’t like the competition the NSA provides…

      1. *isn’t*… GODDAMN google fucking up my post…

  4. Can MaidSafe and other P2P systems ameliorate this problem?

    1. God, I hate you. I do M2M only. Until humans are bred with embedded radios and signal processors it all M2M. A social median is PM2MP.

      1. I think the new preferred term is IoT (internet of things). M2M was always such a misnomer because of its gay overtones.

  5. Some countries, including Russia, have taken steps to require that companies keep data centers within their geographic borders ? a potentially prohibitive cost for start-ups and small companies.

    Regulations exist only for the benefit of established entities, chapter 4,217.

  6. The main reason more countries don’t do what the NSA is doing is because they can’t. If they could, they would, and in many cases, they already are doing the same kind of thing–just less effectively.

    Dissidents from Caracas, Beijing, Cairo, and Moscow should be sure that their governments are tracking them on twitter and facebook and working to trace the membership of dissident groups that way.

    I understand that the Germans, particularly those who remember life in East Germany before the wall came down, are touchy about surveillance, but the rest of them would love to have the ability to do what the NSA does. There certainly isn’t anything inherently so freedom loving about the British or the French that they’d refuse to do to their own people what the NSA is doing to us.

    In fact, I bet we live to see the day that journalists in Europe start calling out heads of state for failing to pick up on a terrorist attack ahead of time by way of NSA style surveillance.

    1. The difference is that the NSA is uniquely legally empowered to siphon data from most internet companies, due to jurisdiction.

  7. One of my previous employers already ran into this a couple years ago. They have a cloud platform for collecting data from remote devices.

    When they began building a new data center in England I thought it was for redundancy and disaster recovery, but no it was because many of their EU clients demanded that their data not go into US data centers where it could be potentially spied on.

    So instead of spending a bunch of money and getting added capacity/redundancy we got just another thing that had to be maintained.

  8. it only looks broken if your revenue model us threatened.


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.