Edward Snowden — the former U.S. security contractor — could remain in legal limbo in Moscow Airport for up to a month.
Officials in Ecuador said today that his bid for asylum in the South American country could take weeks to process. Snowden’s on the run after leaking documents that allegedly show the U.S. and British authorities spied on vast amounts of Internet data, emails and cell-phone calls.
Meanwhile a trade fair called the Big Data Congress opened in London today which could reflect the impact of the Snowden affair. The exhibitors are in the business of “Cloud Computing,” helping companies and other organizations to collect, store online, analyze and exploit huge quantities of data. You might have thought that in the wake of the security contractor’s revelations anyone involved in Big Data would be a little worried.
But Olivier Maes of digital technology group Citrix insisted this isn’t so.
“I don’t think it’s going to change the momentum that you see in the way people want to consume IT,” said Maes. “The cloud is just too powerful in terms of flexibility, and the rapid growth of company innovation.”
He was one of many enthusiasts at the show. I did not find a single downbeat exhibitor, nor one who expressed surprise at Snowden’s revelations. Many said: ‘of course we all knew something like this was going on.’
Jason Bloomberg of tech company Zap Think said the bigger surprise — and cause for alarm — was Snowden’s actions.
“How easy it is for a single renegade to cause so much trouble. And this is a key part of the story: the more important your information is the greater the chance is that just one lone wolf is going to open the floodgates,” claimed Bloomberg.
Other exhibitors said the most important consideration was whether or not the U.S. abused the data it monitored and collected.
Alex Hilton, who speaks for Britain’s cloud industry, suggested that most British companies still trust their data to American servers.
“Ninety-nine percent of organizations are not too worried about where their data is stored. That’s not an issue and if they have nothing to hide in the first place which clearly most people don’t, I don’t think there’s an issue here,” argued Hilton.
So long as commercial secrets are not exposed, he said, online monitoring by the U.S. government is not a problem. But the British inventor of the World Wide Web has a very different take.
In a newspaper interview, Tim Berners-Lee accused western governments of hypocrisy, for spying on the Internet while lecturing repressive leaders for doing the same. He also questioned whether governments could be trusted to safeguard all the sensitive information collected.