Edward Snowden, 2013
Photo by Laura Poitras, Praxis Films
Finally, someone is talking about the fallout of the Snowden case in practical terms. On TechRepublic, Patrick Gray writes in “Will the NSA’s activities handicap IT in the United States?” (bolding mine):
Excepting revelations on NSA spying, 2013 was a good year for the technology industry, particularly in the United States. Silicon Valley experienced a strong resurgence on all fronts…. In the corporate sector, after years of frozen budgets, many companies once again started hiring and spending money on internal IT, funding initiatives ranging from rudimentary application modernization to cutting-edge big data to digital marketing initiatives.
Yet despite all the good news, the U.S. government created a dark cloud on the horizon with revelations of NSA spying activities, which included harvesting phone records and exploiting common consumer and business technologies from iPhones to Cisco networking gear. The obvious and somewhat ironic parallel to this is the U.S. measures that blocked Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei from acquiring various U.S. technology companies, citing concerns that the Chinese government would embed spying technology in Huawei gear and potentially harming the U.S. economy. While the allegations against the Chinese and Huawei have not been publically confirmed, we do know that the U.S. government has done much of the same nefarious activity.
I think it is important that we be aware of our civil rights being eroded by the government, and that we react accordingly. However, I’ve been trying to point out that there are practical consequences to our actions as well, including the fact that many are considering offshoring IT work more than ever before. Not only that, but foreign companies and governments are much less likely now to go with US-based companies because they know they will be spied upon in some fashion.
Or, to put it much more bluntly: We have created a system that not only disregards our Constitutional rights but is utterly stupid. At a time when the economy can barely get geared up, we cannot afford a loss of faith in American companies or government either one.
In many respects, our problems may not seem so dire when viewed in isolation from one another. One pundit recently talked about how America was torn apart by the Civil War, and things really were dire then. The Great Depression certainly was another challenge that this nation met head-on and rose up out of. So, in certain respects, we probably could recover from any one of our problems if we came together and had a mind to solve things rather than keep electing “our guy” or “our woman” that keeps doing the same insane things over and over again.
However, the problem is like the drunk who keeps shooting himself in the foot every time he gets up. Sooner or later, the foot will be gone, and there will be nothing left to stand upon. Worse, it is us who are pulling the trigger.