Regardless of what you may think of NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, there is one thing for certain: the cloud has ears (maybe even eyes, too).
At a time of staggering growth for cloud computing, the revelation of bulk surveillance — domestic and foreign — by the secretive NSA comes as a very unwanted and inopportune surprise. All the major tech giants have been implicated as cooperating parties in aiding this mass data grab, albeit they were compelled by law: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The NSA has a budget that exceeds the GDP of certain nations, so it’s safe to assume that it has the best talent and technologies to conduct its spying activities.
The agency is certainly not a stranger to cloud computing, big data, cryptography, wiretapping, and who knows what else? (Defeating biometrics? Using nanotech for surveillance? Whatever Hollywood can think of, no matter how far-fetched, is probably in development or already in use.)
The news has sent shockwaves throughout the world, but the U.S. tech sector is still coping with damages. A lot of the world’s Internet traffic cross through fibers in the U.S. or owned by a U.S. carrier like AT&T or Verizon. Other U.S. companies are top cloud providers, such as Amazon and Google. And tens of millions of people log into social sites every day to update their families and friends via Facebook and Twitter.
As popular as cloud computing is, many companies are still not sold on its promises. The sell is becoming even harder for U.S. companies after clients learn about the NSA mass surveillance activities. Maybe to the tune of losing $35 billion in the next three years for the industry. Worse yet, for American companies looking to Europe for expansion — there’s a backlash brewing.
U.S. tech companies will be spending a lot of effort in lobbying and trying to get Congress to restrain NSA’s surveillance authority and scope. Their reputations are at stake, and the trust they have earned from years of satisfying customer demands is jeopardized. To a cloud provider which was entrusted with customer data, there cannot be any shred of doubt about the safety and security of the platform. The NSA has committed/is committing a disservice to American enterprise and individuals.