The Price of a Pervasive Surveillance State

In an unsurprising turn of events it appears as though the National Security Agency’s (NSA) pervasive surveillance operation is having some negative consequences (besides making the serfs all uppidy):

Two years ago, I was interviewing the CIO of a major Canadian healthcare organization for a story on cloud computing, and asked if he had considered using US cloud providers or software-as-a-service. He said that he couldn’t even begin to consider those because of concerns because of Canadian patient privacy laws—not just because of differences between US and Canadian laws, but because of the assumption that NSA would gain access to patient records as they crossed the border.

At the time, the concern might have sounded a bit paranoid. But now that those concerns have been validated by the details revealed by Snowden, US cloud providers are losing existing customers from outside the US, according to the CSA study. The survey of members of the organization found that 10 percent of non-US member companies had cancelled contracts with US providers as a result of revelations about PRISM.

The PRISM revelations are also making it harder for US companies to get new business abroad. Of the non-US respondents to the survey, 56 percent are now less likely to consider doing business with a US service provider. And 36 percent of respondents from US companies said that the Snowden “incident” was making it harder for them to do business overseas.

The serfs aren’t the only people upset by the NSA’s antics. Online service providers, who need to please the serfs enough to convince them to sign up for online services, aren’t very happy either. I’m sure the potential economic impact was one of the key reasons that the NSA kept its program so quiet (if people start making a mass exodus away from the services the NSA is using to spy on people then they won’t be able to spy on those people as effectively).