Please enter your username and password below to add this speaker to your folio.

Find Speakers :

5 Reasons Why The Snowden / NSA / PRISM Affair Is Indeed A Game Changer For The Future Of The Internet

I believe that the Snowden/NSA affair and the subsequent discovery of the PRISM program and the data ‘hoovering’ initiative set in motion by the U.S. government has very significant implications that, if seen together (as in ‘pattern recognition’), could prove to be a game-changing moment.

Here are my 5 key points:

1) The future of pretty much all U.S.-based Internet, communications and technology companies could be severely threatened by this. Even if we still somewhat trust (as I do, in most cases) the leading U.S.-based international leaders in the internet, digital content, technology, social media, telecommunications, news and journalism sectors – such as Google / Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Cisco, Amazon, eBay, Apple, Microsoft /Skype, Verizon etc – we now clearly have a wicked problem and may soon be facing a real dilemma: these corporations are all subject to U.S. laws and regulations (as well as their actual interpretation by dozens of law enforcement agencies) which apparently are far more dangerous, un-checked and bottom-less than many of us have expected.

The fact that many U.S. authorities can just summon up a FISA order anytime and apparently obtain information – and with that I mean pretty much any and all meta-data and our personal data footprints, or even the content of these communications – of this magnitude, in this kind of depth, and in such blatant disregard of any need for real evidence or informed consent, and without any redress from anyone that may be its target, for whatever reason, is deeply disturbing.

In my opinion, if this practice (and Obama’s cavalier attitude to the key issues that PRISM represents) continues unchecked it we may ultimately need to come to the conclusion that we should stop using these companies’ services and platforms, altogether, if we live outside of the U.S. (and in countries where private data is still subject to some kind of public protection, such as here in Switzerland where I live). Just to add some context, this is what President Obama said when he was still just a Senator (found via TNW): “This administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide […] I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom”

This could have grave consequences not only for us as Internet users but for the above listed companies and all others that are subject to U.S. laws. In other words, if America is indeed heading into what John Pilger in Counterpunch calls a “police state” (heavy words but apparently not unfounded) we would have no other option but to stop being a part of it. A strange twist, indeed: Snowden fled to Hong Kong (China:) while the U.S. approach to citizens’ rights and surveillance is starting to look a lot more like what is currently the standard in China!

2) This could be a potential death sentence for U.S.-based cloud computing and what I call cloud-media and cloud-culture services. Think about it: in addition to your phone calls and Internet cookies, would you really want all of your other data assets,your skype calls and video chats, your music, your movies, your health records, your education, your banking (and future digital currencies), your shopping lists and your professional business networks in the cloud if any U.S. official – and even worse, by extension, any official anywhere with strong ties to a U.S. official – could use the pretense of national security to hoover, scrape and analyze all your data, for the foreseeable future, run it through an ultra-smart software and create a virtual replica of who you are? The answer is: no b***** way I would go anywhere near that – it would be foolish to strike a Faustian bargain like this (Facebook and Gmail are about as far as I am willing to go, personally). So, will it be back to my own hard-drives and off the global matrix grid, or (much better) maybe this debacle will finally provide a definitive reason why Europe should indeed have a safe and sane place for its own cloud-computing facilities – a great opportunity for Luxembourg, and maybe Switzerland?

3) This could put a serious damper on The Internet of Things and M2M businesses; in fact it could completely ruin any positive development as far as the interconnecting of humans with smart machines, sensors and connected devices such as smart thermostats, traffic monitoring devices, smart logistics and environmental monitoring technologies goes. Who would want to connect even more, wider, deeper, and with smart machines made mostly by American companies, no less, if my human connections are already proving to be utterly exposing me?

4) PRISM apparently leaves all non-U.S. citizens (like me;) without any recourse i.e. without the most basic democratic rights – and this strikes me as not just Orwellian but leaning towards totalitarian. Is this going to become a blueprint for other countries such as Germany, The Netherlands and the UK? If all it takes is some kind of suspicion – in 99% of all cases probably generated by some computer algorithm that is likely to be less accurate than even Klout or Peer Index – to allow the ingestion of my personal data, fusing it with public information via my good many social networks‘ APIs, running it thru some smart software provided by the likes of Booz-Hamilton, and bingo … I am on the No-Fly list… then my only recourse would be to go off the grid. If most of us could so easily become collateral damage in the data war against criminals and terrorists (who probably know better than to use any of these platforms in the same way that we do) than what is the overall sense of it, to begin with? Who are we trying to control here, and why?

Snapz Pro XScreenSnapz0015) With PRISM, the U.S. government is creating a deep canyon of political and ethic differences between themselves and Europe (and many other parts of the world). Or maybe it is just that once again, the country that wholeheartedly adopted the rather ghastly and apparently quite ineffective PATRIOT act and then tried to get us to sign-on to SOPA, ACTA and PIPA etc has once again tried to show Europe’s often impressionable political leaders how to push for more-control-at-all-cost…? In the scariest twist of things, we may now very well see European governments consider PRISM-like initiatives as well (as the German magazine Der Spiegel has reported). Yes, on one handgloba brain futurist gerd, police and other law enforcement agencies in Europe appear to be deeply jealous of this gigantic Orwellian machine that the American colleagues have at their disposal, but on the other hand I would dare say that the European commission would never want to touch this in the near future. Where does this leave the U.S. ? Further isolation. Not good, at all. The illustration on the right could take on entirely new meaning.

The bottom line is this: I love America for a lot of very good reasons, and I have spend a good part of my life there, but this blatant obsession with snooping and surveillance under the pretense of national security must stop, and soon – or else the rest of the world must re-consider all future involvement with those that sanction and engineer this Orwellian detour. A Benjamin Franklin quote comes to mind (perversely so): “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”

PS: Apologies that I am a bit late chiming in on this issue considering how important the recent developments on ‘big data’, privacy and the role of government are, but as usual my various speaking engagements have been keeping me rather busy, in addition to the work on my new book, “From Ego to Eco”.

Tweet Share on Google+


No comments yet


  • Gerd Leonhard Futurist, Author, Keynote Speaker, Think-Tank Leader & Strategist Gerd Leonhard is a widely-known and top-rated futurist, an influential author, an acclaimed keynote speaker and a strategic advisor. He is the co-author of the best-selling book The Future of Music, and the author of The End of Control, Music 2.0, Friction is Fiction, and The Future ... more

More Technology / Innovation Blogs

  • michael-tchongUbertrends that are Changing our World, with Michael Tchong
    By Michael Tchong

    Described by The Daily Telegraph as “America's most influential trend spotter," Michael Tchong has been at the forefront of internet, social media and computer innovation throughout his career. His ... more...

  • jay-samit-2Becoming a Successful Disruptor, with Jay Samit
    By Jay Samit

    A highly respected agent of change, Jay Samit is globally renowned for his expert advice on launching products, building successful businesses, and transforming careers and entire industries. From neg... more...

  • lisa-bodellWhy Simple Wins, with Lisa Bodell
    By Lisa Bodell

    Lisa Bodell is a globally recognized futurist and innovation expert. She sparks new and creative thinking at every turn. She is the CEO of futurethink, a firm that trains businesses in how to become w... more...

  • joshua-kleinSocial Hacking, with Josh Klein
    By Josh Klein

    Life-long expert on the use of hacking and innovation to create and solve social systems and industries, Josh Klein has served as a consultant on innovation and cyber security to the CIA, FBI, NSA, an... more...

  • robert-sicilianoFraud Prevention and Personal Security, with Robert Siciliano
    By Robert Siciliano

    Best-selling author Robert Siciliano is a United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla Staff Officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – whose motto is "Semper Paratus" (Always Ready). For... more...

  • michael-rogersWhat to Expect: Life and Work in the 2020s
    By Michael Rogers

    Michael Rogers helps people think about the future, with clients ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies, from universities and government agencies to the general public. He has worked with co... more...

  • jimcarroll2How to Become a World-Class Innovator
    By Jim Carroll

    Jim Carroll is at the forefront of global futurism, helping an array of blue-chip clients to predict the trends and innovations of coming years before they happen. In all of his guises, author, speake... more...