What tech companies want from Obama's NSA proposal

Protesters dressed up in costumes representing U.S. President Barack Obama and a National Security Agency agent in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

President Obama is expected to suggest reforms to the NSA surveillance program tomorrow. And considering that data collection is also the capital of the tech business today, it’s no surprise that the industry has been lobbying for change.

“The first thing, is stop the bulk collection not just of phone data but internet data,” said Brough Turner, the founder and CTO at netBlazr, an internet service provider in Watertown, Mass.

While a lot of attention has been paid to phone data, tech companies point out that the FISA Act also allows for the bulk collection of Internet data. Turner’s developing wireless products, and a few months ago he was shopping it around in Europe.

I was in Germany in October, and it was pretty clear that American services are completely, suspicious and American products are somewhat suspicious,” Turner said. “That was three months ago. At this point, the situation is much more negative.”

Turner says that Obama can start putting some of these concerns at ease if he proposes a policy to protect the privacy of foreign internet users.

The NSA revelations are also calling into question the security of cloud computing, said Matt Simons, the director of social and economic justice at ThoughtWorks, which builds custom software for business around the world. He says moving software to the cloud has, in part, fueled this tech boom

But “people are seeking to build their own clouds, people are seeking to use clouds that are not storing their data inside the United States,” Simons said.

He added that the NSA revelations appear to be having a bigger impact on small and medium sized businesses. While there are few alternatives to Google, Facebook and Amazon, the global competition for smaller scale products is fierce.

One thing that’s hitting all tech companies is the news that the NSA has built back doors into security software, said Stephen Cobb, a researcher at ESET, a cyber-security firm that protects company servers.

“It really sent a shiver through the security community because we know if you weaken it for the intelligence community, than the bad guys will exploit it, too,” Cobb said.

Cobbs says before the Snowden revelations, the cyber-security industry shared information with the government. Now, that relationship has chilled.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...