Back when Edward Snowden first began revealing details of the depth of NSA spying on foreign governments and companies, as well as U.S. citizens, I said that this would end up costing U.S. tech companies dearly. Now we’re beginning to see just how much: $47 billion according to Forrester Research. As large as that figure is, it could have been worse. Back in 2013, the folks at Forrester were estimating that the stateside tech industry would take a $180 billion hit.
By design, the research company’s numbers don’t reflect the amount of money spent by U.S. taxpayers funding the NSA’s operations. Nor do they indicate how much of this $47 billion is being born by the likes of Microsoft and Oracle, as far as I can tell. What I do know is that many foreign governments have been publicly investing in Linux and open source projects since Snowden’s revelations that back doors for the NSA have been built into many proprietary U.S. enterprise software products.
According to the report, American cloud providers stand to lose more than $500 million dollars in a three year period beginning in 2014 and ending in 2016. The research company says that a major part of the total loss is being felt by providers of security and encryption services. At present, over a quarter of foreign based businesses have either quit using U.S. service providers, or have greatly reduced their spending with U.S. companies.
This report comes just as we’re beginning to see how unnecessary all of this has been.
An AP article published Sunday by the Huffington Post reports that just before the first Snowden documents were made public, the NSA was considering dropping its program to collect and store telephone calling records of U.S. citizens. Why? Because some officials within the NSA thought it wasn’t bearing enough anti-terrorist information to justify it’s enormous cost.
“The internal critics pointed out that the already high costs of vacuuming up and storing the “to and from” information from nearly every domestic landline call were rising, the system was not capturing most cellphone calls, and program was not central to unraveling terrorist plots, the officials said. They worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed.”
The AP’s information comes from unnamed “current and former intelligence officials” who say they doubt that then NSA director Keith Alexander would’ve approved any proposal to kill the program. Indeed, after Snowden revealed the program’s existence, Alexander vehemently defended it, calling it “essential.”
There’s a bit of good news here.
The law authorizing the NSA’s collection of telephone records is set to expire in June of this year. These until now unknown concerns by officials within the NSA might prove to be relevant when Congress goes about the business of deciding whether to renew or modify the law. With a little luck — well, much more than a little — maybe they’ll let the authorization expire completely and end this aspect of our government’s spying on its own people.