Snowden’s revelation of the PRISM data gathering programme will have a big effect on business. Consumers are less likely to share their information freely, as the question “are you compromising my personal information?” will enter their minds. Companies that rely heavily on analysis and processing of customer information will feel this impact as trust between customer and company breaks down. Should companies unplug their computers, stop making phone calls and start meeting their customers in person?
We breathed a collective sigh of relief when Tech giants Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Skype, YouTube and Apple denied that the National Security Agency has direct access to servers of major internet companies. Assuming (although we can’t be sure) that we are not spied on when we use these services during our leisure time, how will things fare for us at work? We all live in a digital world. Who doesn’t spend his or her working day in front of a computer? With companies increasingly reliant on cloud storage to house their sensitive data, Snowden’s unveiling of PRISM is worrying.
Snowden claims that he has documents detailing the innerworkings of the National Security Agency. The blueprints of the largest security network in the world. He stated with no hesitation that he “had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time.” He says that this is a serious violation of the law and believes that this information needs to be made public.
German companies are particularly shocked by the NSA espionage scandal. If German companies’ industrial secrets are freely available to US intelligence agencies then the US has a dishonest advantage in the market. Unsurprisingly, trust between the US and Germany is at a low. Germany’s IT Small Business Association suggested creating consortiums that are Europe-wide to counterbalance the US economic power. It is estimated that industrial espionage has cost Germany $5.4 billion in 2012 alone. This is a case of unlucky timing as the European and the American market make plans to be more integrated in the future by implementing a free trade agreement.
It is common knowledge that phone calls have been monitored for almost ten years in the United States. Telephone companies are required to make real-time call monitoring available to the government. Under the Clinton administration, in 1994, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) was created, which states that telecom companies need to be able to monitor their own equipment and keep surveillance equipment up to date. Therefore you cannot be sure that nobody listens in when you’re making your conference call.
Originally, CALEA was set up because it was becoming harder for the FBI to tap into the increasing number of telephones. In 2006 CALEA was expanded to also include VoIP internet technologies. In May this year the FBI proposed to President Obama to take it to the next level. The FBI believes that the internet is a breeding ground for would be attackers of America. They want to keep up with the bad guys – by eavesdropping. With more people using a variety of electronic communications for various purposes there is a wealth of information to be attained through clandestine means. Financial tracking, location tracking, emails, videos, pictures and text messages to name just a few.
Edward Snowden’s allegations tell us that eavesdropping is wider spread and more common than we could have ever known. Companies will think twice before they move to a public cloud. No type of electrical communications is one hundred per cent safe anymore.
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