Analysis: PRISM revelations harm US political, financial interests
June 20, 2013 7 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since June 6, when Edward Snowden, a former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) technician, exposed a vast communications spying system called PRISM, observers have focused on the ramifications of this controversy inside America. But in an excellent analysis written for ComputerWorld magazine’s New Zealand edition, Taylor Armerding points out that Snowden’s revelation could result in extensive international blowback for the United States, in both the political and economic realms. Armerding quotes Toronto University political science professor Ron Deibert, who argues that this latest revelation of massive communications interception activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) carries with it “unintended consequences [...] that will undermine US foreign policy interests”. Deibert points out that the spy scandal has the potential to undercut America’s role and influence in global Internet governance. In the words of renowned security expert Bruce Schneier, many around the world are beginning to view the US as “simply too untrustworthy to manage the Internet”. Even policymakers and ordinary users friendly to Washington are worried about what they perceive as the “huge disadvantages” of their dependence on US-managed Internet networks that host the content of social media sites, cloud computing databases, or telecommunications exchanges, says Deibert. But the biggest potential damage to US interests, argues Armerding, is not political, but economic. “It is not just personal information that is being swept into the NSA’s massive databases”, he notes; “it is corporate data as well”. Indeed, the vast foreign and domestic spying represented by PRISM poses a direct threat to the global competitiveness of the American technology sector. Several companies, including Facebook and Amazon, have been quick to deny allegations that US government agencies have direct access to their customers’ data through PRISM. But, as the ComputerWorld article points out, “no direct access” does not necessarily imply no access at all. Consequently, many European Union (EU) companies relying on American-based communications service providers are now increasingly concerned about being in breach of EU Data Protection legislation, which forbids unauthorized parties from accessing users’ personal data. There are reports that EU-based cloud providers are seeing unprecedented increase in sales inquiries. The US tech industry will need to actively and publicly campaign in favor of rolling back the “surveillance state”, argues Armerding, before it can begin to deflect the avalanche of mistrust caused by PRISM.