Is the internet in peril?
Post By: Trevor Meyer
In June of 2013 British newspaper The Guardian published an article detailing how telecommunications giant Verizon voluntarily passing off their call history database to the National Security Agency. And, just a few days later Washington Post’s Barton Gellman broke the news of the National Security Agency’s secret program known as Prism. Collaborating with Edward Snowden, an ex NSA contractor, Gellman released documents indicating a government program called Prism granted the NSA and FBI direct access to the web servers of several major companies through a series of secret court systems. Gellman’s piece consisted of a 41-slide NSA PowerPoint, which included a listing of the tech companies who participated in the Prism program. The most notable companies included Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Apple. Even though there were few clear details regarding the exact information that had been collected, the companies responded quickly by issuing denials. However, the allegations regarding their participation were true. Although, Snowden’s records often uncovered data collections the companies were unaware of. Begging the question, what were the implications of NSA’s data collection for the companies and their users? Well, according to Wired Magazine, research indicates the systematic mistrust over privacy could result in $180 billion lost. The real cost is well beyond monetary measurement. The real loss is user trust. As we’ve studied in class, the tech industry is heavily dependent on users. Moreover, without users there is no industry. For years companies tiptoed the gray area surrounding customer privacy, however the fallout of Prism program severed every advancement created by policy engineers. Ultimately, the breach of trust between users and companies has put the state of the Internet in question. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated, “part of the reason the US blew it is that governments around the world are now threatening the security of the Internet by passing their own laws that permit intrusions on Internet users.” For years countries around the world have explored movements to balkanize the Internet—meaning the Internet data of a country would be stored within its own borders as a platform for protection. However the Prism fallout heightened protection concerns. The behavior of the government has disparaged the perception of the Internet and there is no solution in sight. However, how you use the Internet remains in your hands.