Thank goodness that chatterbox Edward Snowden can't shut up.
Even while holed up in an airport terminal in Moscow, desperately
seeking a new home that won't extradite him, the former National
Security Agency contractor keeps blabbing about massive worldwide
government snooping on Internet and telephone communications.
The good part is that he has finally gotten around to mentioning
that everybody else is as guilty of snooping as the United
States-including, most definitely, some of the nations whose
leaders have publicly criticized America.
That ought to blunt some of the worries about the impact of his
spying revelations on US business. Or will it?
Those worries start with a potential loss of trust in some US
companies that have a vast global reach, and are cooperating with
NSA requests for information. Among the prominent names named are
Further, they include concerns about the fast-growing enterprise
cloud computing business, which depends on a reputation for
absolute security of private data.
Google, Microsoft and
), all names that have popped up in the NSA spy story, are on the
long list of competitors for enterprise cloud computing clients.
Some much younger American companies are growing with the industry,
too: A new
shows that some lesser-known names have been performing better than
big tech in the cloud space so far this year.
So, some of the latest developments in the spy story must come as a
relief, including the following:
- A report in the publication
over the weekend revealed that
the German government is cooperating
with NSA data requests on a "no questions asked" basis. So much
for Chancellor Angela Merkel's denunciation of the program as
"Cold War tactics," not to mention her demand for an explanation
from the US.
- The source of the report in
was the talkative Snowden, who in fact said that "most Western
states" are cooperating with the NSA, not just Germany.
So, it looked like American companies could at least argue that
they were no more or less vulnerable to government snooping demands
than any others. At least, that was the case until Sunday.
That was the day the
published a report, based on "top-secret documents," alleging that
the US and British governments have
"direct access" to servers
operated by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook through a
program called PRISM.
(AOL) and privately-owned PalTalk also were named in the report.
The distinction is crucial. The companies have acknowledged
complying with specific requests for information. Google even has a
that tracks the numbers on user data requests.
But the companies have flatly denied permitting server access to
the US government, or anyone else. Google has posted
a new denial
, and executives of other tech companies named in the
story followed in an article published in the
The denials have the proper note of indignation-more than one said
they had never even heard of any program called PRISM.
Suspicious minds have pointed out before that the companies would
be prohibited from commenting about their participation, by the
same secrecy laws that enable the programs to operate.
In fact, the story of the NSA spying operation is all about the
potential impact on suspicious minds.
The story broke at a particularly poor time for Google and other US
companies, as the European Union has begun to finalize its expected
update to privacy rules related to Internet data collection.
The tech companies and their clients have expressed concerns that
the new rules will place onerous restrictions on data tracking and
gathering. Those practices are the commercial lifeblood on the
Internet, as they're used to target and deliver advertising and
direct marketing messages to the right audiences.
Behind the scenes, the threat of burdensome regulation might not be
Privacy advocate Simon Davies, who was commissioned by the EU to
assess its privacy proposal, has instead posted a shockingly blunt
denunciation of the plan
in its latest form. He blames intensive lobbying by US
corporations, with help from the "business-friendly" British and
Irish governments, for the watering down of the proposed privacy
protections. It was, he concludes, "a vast stitch-up to kill the
There's even a bright side there, in a Monty Python-ish way. GigaOm
speculates that all these privacy worries could create whole new
industries-or at least
give a boost
to new ventures aimed at providing "private cloud" services.
This Just In: Everybody's Spying On Everybody
Let's Thank the NSA for Showing Us the Real Cost
of Big Data
It's a Shift in Business Models, Not Innovation,
That Has Shaken Up the Tech Industry