The NSA leaks detailing parts of the massive American government data collection apparatus have rocked the offline and online world. While many people were aware that the American government was searching for and collecting data online, many did not realize the full scale of the operation until the Eric Snowden leaks. While the American government has taken the brunt of the criticism, revered tech grants, such as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), have also been criticized. Now, rival tech firms and countries are seeking to use the leaks to their economic advantage.
NSA pushing companies for data access
American companies, which by-and-large dominate the global Internet industry, have come under close fire. Most of the companies the NSA works with and pressured into cooperation were American firms. This has created huge PR nightmares for these companies, which have by-and-large denied working closely with the American government or allowing unfettered access to data. And now, other companies and leaders across the world are looking to use this to their advantage.
The massive negative publicity heaped on Facebook and Google has created a unique market opportunity for rival firms. There is now a large amount of demand for safe and secure Internet solutions. Even people who have absolutely nothing to hide would probably sleep easier knowing that their email account is safe and that the American government is not looking over their shoulder.
Data transfer system
With the proliferation of high-speed Internet cables across the literal face of the globe, data now travels back and forth from countries all the time. For example, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) might sell goods in Brazil, but could choose to store Brazilian consumer data in Mexico and then access it from the United States (hypothetical example) with ease. This would create a three stop system through which data would be transferred.
Some governments are now considering laws that would require consumer data to be stored and kept within national boundaries. For example, the European Union has discussed creating a “EuroCloud” and allowing EU consumer data to be stored only within the EU. Meanwhile, Brazil is now pushing forward legislation that would likewise require that all consumer data and information remain within the country.
Germany leading in consumer privacy
One country that is beginning to slowly emerge as a leader in consumer privacy is Germany. Among European countries, Germany was perhaps the most angered by U.S. spying due to a culture and strong laws that insist upon privacy measures. Germany’s Federal Data Protection Act is among the most strict in the world. Among other things, the Act requires consent from consumers before using or sharing data. The Act also requires high levels of confidentiality and efforts to protect consumer data.
As such, German tech companies are now trying to challenge Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other major American companies accused of cooperating too easily with the American government. Security firms, online hosting services, and other IT firms based in countries such as Germany are now touting their products and services as more secure than American counterparts. Some critics have charged, however, that due to the mass transmission of data across international boundaries, these companies offer little actual advantage.
United States protecting its interests
These developments help to illustrate the precarious situation the United States finds itself in. On one hand, the country is the world’s premier super power. It must protect its own interests, and the interests of its allies. And while the war on terror has not struck as close to home in recent years, the American government must continue to monitor global events and work to protect American citizens from extremism.
At the same time, America’s massive spy apparatus runs the risk of alienating many of the United State’s closest allies. American government policies could also have a direct impact on American companies, as is evident by the rise in companies looking to challenge Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), and others through offering more secure platforms and services.