Why the NSA Prism Program Could Kill U.S. Tech Companies
...Think for a second about just how the U.S. economy has changed in the last 40 years. While a large percentage of our economy is still based in manufacturing, some of the most ascendant U.S. companies since the 1970s have been in the information technology sector. Companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google are major exporters of information services (if you can think of such a thing as "exportable") through products such as Gmail, iCloud, Exchange, and Azure. Hundreds of millions of people use these services worldwide, and it has just been revealed to everybody outside the U.S. that our government reserves the right to look into their communications whenever it wants.
If you lived in Japan, India, Australia, Mexico, or Brazil, and you used Gmail, or synced your photos through iCloud, or chatted via Skype, how would you feel about that? Let's say you ran a business in those countries that relied upon information services from a U.S. company. Don't these revelations make using such a service a business liability? In fact, doesn't this news make it a national security risk for pretty much any other country to use information services from companies based in the U.S.? How should we expect the rest of the world to react? ...
...Has it come to this? Are we really willing to let the fear of terrorism threaten one of the most important sectors of the U.S. economy? Frankly, I expect the Prism program to fall apart on its own, not because of public outcry but because the companies that participated will now see it as a toxic association that could threaten their status in fast-growing foreign markets. If U.S. intelligence agencies try to compel participation through the courts, I expect companies such as Apple and Google to start putting up a legal fight—not just because Prism is bad public relations, because it's bad for business.