Tech Firms Step Up Efforts on Digital Counter Surveillance

The “Snowden Effect” has caused a ripple among major tech companies trying to assure consumers that their personal information is secure and protected in data centers. Following the surveillance revelations by Edward Snowden, the question on everyone’s mind is whether their private and confidential data has been secured from prying eyes online. A number of companies, concerned by the National Security Agency’s actions, are working to protect their customers’ data.

With billions of dollars in revenue hanging in the balance after the Snowden revelations, Microsoft has announced plans to shield services from outside surveillance with the addition of state-of-the-art encryption features to various consumer services and internally at its data centers. This follows the announcement from other firms such as Google, Mozilla, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo as they react to the sensitive issues of data privacy and security.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in November, more than half of Americans surveyed say NSA surveillance has intruded on their personal privacy rights.

While security has long simmered as a concern for users, many companies were reluctant to employ modern protections, worried that upgrades would slow down connections and add complexity to their networks. The Internet firms have long complied with legal orders to hand over information, but were alarmed by more recent news that the NSA was also accessing data without their knowledge.

“In India, government officials are now barred from using email services that have servers located in the United States. In Brazil, lawmakers are pushing for laws that would force foreign companies to spend billions redesigning their systems — and possibly the entire Internet — to keep Brazilian data from leaving the country,” reports The New York Times.

Forrester Research projects the fallout could cost the so-called cloud computing industry as much as $180 billion — a quarter of its revenue — by 2016.

“The world is quickly being divided into companies that are secure and companies that are not,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti, a dean of international business and finance at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. While https and Perfect Forward Secrecy protect the data transmission, law enforcement agencies can still compel companies to hand the data over from their servers.

Related Stories:
Major Tech Companies Unite to Call for New Limits on Surveillance, The Washington Post, 12/8/13
Obama Plans New Limits on NSA Surveillance, Politico, 12/5/13