Snowden and How He Affected Web Host Reputation

Edward SnowdenIt’s been a year since American computer professional Edward Joseph Snowden, who is a former systems administrator for the Central Intelligence Agency and counterintelligence trainer at the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed to several media outlets thousands of classified documents that he had access to while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency. The act turned the once obscure NSA contractor into the face of a nationwide movement that calls on the US government to be more transparent when it comes to their surveillance of its citizens.

As expected, Snowden’s leak and the wave of outrage that followed affected not just the government but also service providers that handle and host data on the World Wide Web. People were already skeptical of the privacy that are afforded to them on the Internet, but are at least relying on the assurance that companies that collect their private information will keep it to themselves.

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The straw that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back was the realization that their personal info is not safe even if these big name, multinational corporations had no intention of sharing their data, as they can be forced to hand over customer data to government agencies via orders issued by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders without any notice before or after the fact. What’s worse, Snowden’s leak revealed that the NSA has secretly intercepted unencrypted data from Google’s private data centers.

One of the biggest changes that has come out of the Snowden leaks is that US web hosts’ reputation has suffered a great deal, as users now know that no matter which host they use, they tend to be at risk of getting their privacy stepped on by the government. This in turn led to many businesses moving to hosts that don’t have servers located within U.S. jurisdiction.

The main problem that people have with the revelation brought by the Snowden leaks goes beyond the vulnerability of their data on servers hosted on US soil, as that is easily solved by not hosting something that would mean trouble for them from a legal standpoint. The bigger problem is that it gives the government raw, unchecked authority to access private files, which could then be used to build cases for targets of legal prosecution, regardless of the validity or relevance to the current charges.

In order to avoid further losses, many large tech companies such as Google, Yahoo, Dropbox, Microsoft, Apple, and others, have started a group called the Reform Government Surveillance, which calls on the government’s help to restore the confidence of people on the Internet and many IT services, with the first agenda being pushed essentially calling for US surveillance efforts to be reigned in by transparent and clearly defined laws.

As mentioned above, until the U.S. government manages to fix the can of worms that the Snowden leaks have opened, Cloud and Web Hosting Companies with servers in the U.S. will have to contend with losing customers to foreign service providers outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

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