The cost of Internet freedom
As many are already aware, Internet freedom doesn't come cheap – in America, it has already cost the government and, subsequently, its citizens millions to repair damage done by the National Security Agency scandal of 2013 and continues to cause political complications nationwide. Unlike other pressing legislative issues, there's no clear direction for the speculation-heavy topic, and will continue to affect commerce and everyday Internet users until more concrete rules are put into place. To demonstrate what's going on in today's landscape, let's take a look at just a few of the pressing issues facing the American public right now.
Internet freedom continues to cost big business
The National Security Agency was revealed to be keeping close tabs on the Internet habits of the American people, as well as a number of international businesses without public permission or knowledge. Of course, tech worker Edward Snowden exposed the infractions and left the country, and the rest is history, leaving a trail of public confusion and financial ruin in his wake. Vice News outlet, Motherboard, wrote a recent piece on how major companies like Google and Oracle continue to pay for this major event. Contributor Sam Gustin reviewed a statement made by Danielle Kehl, a policy analyst at OTI to assess the damage done.
"Too often, we have discussed the National Security Agency's surveillance programs through the distorting lens of a simplistic 'security versus privacy' narrative," she explained in a statement. "But if you look closer, the more accurate story is that in the name of security, we're trading away not only privacy, but also the US tech economy, internet openness, America's foreign policy interests, and cybersecurity."
What does this boil down to? A lot of maintenance costs for companies that worked with the government's PRISM metadata initiative, which was used to collect the information of millions of users, which was then analyzed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Because of the Snowden revelations, analyst James Staten of Forrester projected over $100 billion in loss for the Internet Service Provider industry by 2016 and billions more from the cloud computing sector, according to the source.
What aren't businesses promoting Internet freedom in the U.S.?
There are a number of examples of companies like Google advocating for increased Web access abroad, but little done to address the mass amounts of information many corporations have to their users' information. Unsurprisingly, this hush-hush attitude boils down to advertising revenue.
New York Times contributors Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen detailed in a recent piece how other organizations have been fighting to make their product available in countries with more restrictive Internet browsing policies. Though useful in opening the world to the Web, this is also a revenue-motivated move – the more places their websites are available, the more information they can gain on their consumers and money to be made through advertising. Where does this leave domestic customers?
The OTI reported detailed in Motherboard hints at continued inaction to result in the potential for American citizens to be manipulated again.
"The rise in data localization and data protection proposals in response to NSA surveillance threatens not only U.S. economic interests, but also Internet Freedom around the world," the OTI report stated.
While plenty of major corporations have been happily vocal about social causes that could damage their bottom line (net neutrality is a great example), major companies have remained suspiciously quiet on the topic of Internet freedom in the United States. While Google continues to pursue justice for citizens in other countries including China and Cuba, it's interesting to take note of the bizarre stagnancy where most of these conglomerates are based.