The story of the Obama administration’s pursuit of one man exposing unconstitutional spying is important. But the real issue we should be discussing in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations is the fate of the Internet, Open University professor John Naughton writes in The Observer.

To begin, there are three things we should be thinking about as a result of what we’ve learned so far, Naughton notes.

First, “the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered.” Balkanization — the division of the Web into a number of geographical subnets separately governed by China, Russia, Iran, etc. — is a certainty with increasing state control over communication among residents.

Second, having been revealed as abusing their “privileged position in the global infrastructure” by using the Net to spy on foreign governments as well as foreign citizens, the U.S. and other Western powers have lost their claim to legitimacy as governors of the Internet as a whole.

Third, “the Obama administration’s ‘internet freedom agenda’ has been exposed as patronising cant.” ” ‘Today,’ ” Naughton writes, quoting Belarusian technology writer Evgeny Morozov, ” ‘the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.’ “

That’s all at the nation-state level, Naughton points out. Now what of the implications the Snowden revelations have at the level of individuals?

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

John Naughton at The Observer:

[The Snowden revelations] tell us … that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you’re thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.

And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” she said, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity.”

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