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Digital trade in a post-PRISM world | The Hill’s Congress Blog

See on Scoop.itVirtual Cluster Initiative

While much ink has been spilled already on the implications of the National Security Agency’s mass electronic surveillance programs for privacy, civil liberties, and national security, the fallout from PRISM is also likely to have an immediate and lasting negative impact on U.S. economic competitiveness. Not only are the few U.S. companies named on Edward Snowden’s leaked slides suffering reputational harm among consumers around the world because of their court-ordered compliance with government surveillance activities, but entire U.S. industries are facing increased threat of a global backlash from customers who may choose to flee to foreign competitors who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as keeping data safe from government monitoring.

 

While these threats are most severe to the U.S. technology sector, they extend to many other U.S. industries that handle sensitive information, such as banking, insurance, and health care. Even before Edward Snowden became a household name, U.S. companies were facing an onslaught of anti-competitive policies from other nations intent on giving their domestic companies an advantage at the expense of foreign competitors, including requiring domestically manufactured or domestically supplied services, mandating that service-providers use domestic infrastructure or facilities, and demanding compliance testing be performed in-country.

 

In particular, many nations have embraced digital industry protectionism by, among other steps, requiring data to be stored or processed within the country. For example, Greece, Vietnam and Brunei passed laws requiring data generated within the country to be stored on servers within the country. And Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria have passed regulations requiring that IT infrastructure for payment processing be located domestically. Ostensibly these policies are to protect privacy or national security, but there is no question that most are advanced for purely self-interested economic reasons that violate the principles of free trade.

 

For the last several years U.S. government officials have fought back against these efforts, arguing that the USA PATRIOT Act did not grant the federal government carte blanche to access electronic data. But their ability to make this case going forward has been severely compromised by revelations about the size and scope of the NSA’s surveillance efforts. The existence of widespread government electronic monitoring now legitimizes these barriers to digital trade: as long as the United States maintains its current policies on electronic surveillance, any country that wants to give preference to its domestic providers can simply say it opposes PRISM and effectively shut down the debate.

 

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See on thehill.com

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2013 by .
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