Analysis: PRISM revelations harm US political, financial interests

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
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.

7 Responses to Analysis: PRISM revelations harm US political, financial interests

  1. captnmike says:

    Blowback should be no surprise at all, as the world is forced to face the facts about the run amok “security” of the U.S. and how everyone’s privacy has been taken away. I would be amazed if the rest of the world did not take action to keep their communications out of the U.S and route around us,

    Be afraid, what a bunch of bed wetters the U.S. has turned into, hiding under the bed sucking their thumb or guns. What ever happened to standing tall?

  2. Duncan Kinder says:

    With all due respects, it is not the PRISM revelations but rather PRISM itself that has caused the harm cited in this article.

  3. TFH says:

    There is nothing really stopping another nation, sufficiently large corporate body or groups of idealist to start up the Internet v. 2, that would bypass all internet structure based in the U.S. and all U.S. laws that concern it.

  4. Peter Wallerberger says:

    A deritive of which; TFH, is exactly what the E.U is probably going to do !!

  5. TFH says:

    What is supposedly bad for the intel services is that these revelations raise public awareness of how easy it is to spy on them. O.K. bad in the short term but in the long term the public will also be aware of the opposition that can just as easily spy on them and without any legal restrictions.

  6. Pete says:

    I assume most EU companies and individuals are unaware of EU laws which allow authorities to intercept their data including emails and phone calls anyway.

    The “EU Council Resolution of 17 January 1995 on the lawful interception of telecommunications” includes such rules as:

    “3.3. If network operators/service providers initiate encoding, compression or encryption of telecommunications traffic, law enforcement agencies require the network operators/service providers to provide intercepted communications en clair.”

    Its remarkable “EU Council Resolution of 17 January 1995” is freely available on the net (presumably unclassified) at

  7. TFH says:

    Good insight Pete! I honestly thought EU was less of a Big Brother than USA, will have to take that into reconsideration.

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