Friday, June 7, 2013

US Exports and PRISM

It appears to me that the new revelations about the PRISM program are likely to hurt US commerce over time.  If I'm a buyer at a non-US company and I'm contemplating putting my data on Amazon's cloud, using Google Docs, buying a Cisco router, even installing Microsoft Windows on my PCs, I now have to assume that the US company I want to do business with is in bed with the NSA.  I have to assume that my enterprise data, my employee's personal data, etc, may be compromised by this new equipment or software.  The company's denials clearly mean nothing (since the government has now confirmed PRISM, thereby making liars of them all).  For all foreigners, you have to assume that anything you share on Facebook, send in a Gmail, say on a Skype call, etc, could be inspected by US intelligence.

In the short term, this will likely have little effect, since people will have limited choice, and it will take a while for the culture to shift.  But in every internal debate about whether to use the American solution or some other homegrown option, this information is going to put a finger on the scale.  Foreign governments are now going to have excellent reasons to promote and protect their homegrown software and equipment industries, since they know they can trust them.  It will take years or even decades for this to play out, but "Made in America", or at least "Designed in California", just took a massive hit to the brand.


nereus said...

"... since they know they can trust them."

I think I missed a step in the logic chain, somewhere right around the quoted text.

The issue, globally, is self-hosted vs. somebody-you-don't-know-hosted.

dr2chase said...

Yeah, I'm with nereus. "Buy Chinese, since you can't trust the US companies." Right. This seems like a massive shot in the arm for all that otherwise annoying and hassle-to-use open source software (says the guy with Solaris and Ubuntu VMs on his Mac laptop).

Stuart Staniford said...


I agree that open source options are likely to get a boost from this - the idea that you can transparently inspect how the system works and what it's doing is going to seem very appealing.

Stuart Staniford said...

Also - on China specifically, Chinese enterprise buyers are already fairly resistant to US software/hardware and prefer to buy from Chinese suppliers. Obviously their cynicism has now been justified.... But I'm thinking Indians are now more likely to want to buy from Indian companies, Europeans from European companies, Brazilians from Brazilian companies, etc.

Again, I'm not suggesting an overnight revolution. But on the margins, over time, I expect this to shift things significantly.

Unknown said...

My question is who is managing this data collection, storage and review? With tight budgets and less staff, how will this be used and by who???