War for the Web
30 09.13

Snowden, the NSA, and the ITU

There’s been a lot of uproar over the last few months since Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA’s unprecedented surveillance of the Internet at large; and the consequences have been incredibly damaging for US interests both at home and abroad. The NSA’s reckless actions will have two sets of distinct long-term consequences for American business and the Internet at large.

The consequences for American business are long term and profound. American cloud providers simply cannot guarantee their customers any kind of privacy. Any business that operates on the Internet in the United States will have it’s records examined and surveilled.

This has the potential to be devastating to a large sector of the American economy. It gives an edge to businesses based in other nations. We’ll see how much money the American economy loses but in these days of fragile economics taking this risk was incredibly irresponsible on the part of the American government.

The second set of consequences are more profound. The United States has ceded the moral high ground in the debate over control of the Internet. For the last several years, the ITU, the Telecom governing body of the United Nations, has been fighting for control of the Internet. We’ve been fighting it here, but now we’ve lost our footing. Many countries, Brazil, China, Russia, and others would like to see the ITU in control of regulating the Internet, and we’ve given them the ammunition to do it. Brazil has proposed a measure to regulate the Internet that would give the ITU spamblocking abilities that could lend themselves to censorship all over the globe.

So now we as Internet users are faced with a choice. Do we want surveillance or censorship? Would we rather that we never read opposing opinions or that everything we read is tracked and a detailed profile is built of our views, ideas and interests?

I can’t figure out which is worse.

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