Last week, San Francisco hosted the GigaOm Structure, a conference for cloud developers, users, hackers, spies and the usual suspects with their heads in the clouds. Brad Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft spoke on Data Privacy and Security. “One of the fundamental prerequisites of being in the cloud business,” he said, “is you must offer services that people trust.” And since last June, there’s been “a double-digit decline in people’s trust in American tech companies in key places like Brussels and Berlin and Brasilia. This has put trust at risk.” And it’s likely to get worse.
“The longer we wait or the less we do the worse the problem becomes. We are seeing other governments consider new procurement rules – procurement rules that could effectively freeze out US-based companies.”
Some analysts have forecast the loss of trust over the next few years will add up to a loss of $180 billion over the next few years to cloud computing hosts and service providers. Given the scale of the threat mass surveillance poses to American tech firms, the incommensurate scale of their response has been surprising. After getting snookered by the Administration and Congress, Big Tech has fought back to a degree, intensifying its lobbying efforts in Congress while making efforts to placate domestic and foreign customers alike. Maybe the increased lobbying had an effect in the House, where an overwhelming majority of representatives voted
to strip the agency of its powers to search Americans’ emails without a warrant, to prohibit the NSA or CIA from pressuring tech companies to install so-called “back doors” in their commercial hardware and software, and to bar NSA from sabotaging common encryption standards set by the government.
What they voted on was an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill which is now in the Senate. It has a ways to go before it becomes law. Which possibly explains why a majority of Congress could vote to free the Panopticon one day and restrain it the next. Update: Candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton now supports some form of NSA reform. (Candidate Barack Obama supported NSA reform in 2008). Three Senators suggest President Obama could end the phone and internet dragnet today. Update: Time to cash in for General Keith “Haystack” Alexander, chief Panopticon ideologue. Recently he pitched his wares to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. His asking price for advice is $600,000 a month (down from a million). No doubt he regrets the problems he’s caused for U.S. tech firms, but on a personal level, the future could not be brighter.