NSA's PRISM not Distorting the Future of Cloud Computing

By Erik Linask August 16, 2013

In a recent blog entry, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani discusses the potential impact of the recent revelations surrounding the NSA’s PRISM program on tech companies. While he may be right, and there may be some impact, it will not likely be far reaching on long-lasting. The fact is we have become too accustomed to having access to data, resources, and information at our fingertips and are hardly willing to engage a technological regression for the sake of a protecting a few bytes of data.

Think about it: when did you last pick up a physical map or phone book? If you don’t have young kids, how long has it been since you played a board game? (But I bet you’ve played Candy Crush or Angry Birds.) Do you get still have a physical newspaper or TV Guide delivered to your home? (Yes, there are many who do, but that number is significantly smaller than it was pre-iPhone).

The point, simply, is we have become slaves to technology.

The same holds for business, especially at a time when our personal and business lives have become so intertwined it’s sometimes hard to separate them. We work on weekends and while away on vacation, and likewise, we often manage our personal affairs from the office. It’s the new normal.

Knowing that, I took the opportunity to ask some members of the cloud computing industry what they felt the impact of the PRISM leaks might be on their market. I received several interesting responses, but most, in some capacity, acknowledged the revelations may cause concern, but there is little we can do about it and the ultimate impact will be negligible.

Whether for business of personal use, most of us use multiple devices and many different applications and services to be efficient in our various capacities. Many of these services leverage the cloud. We know it, and we will continue to use them because they enrich our lives.

“People kind of assume anything you put on the Internet can be found; as soon as you turn on your computer, your data is available to anybody,” says Cloudant’s Sam Bisbee. “That’s the price we pay for the cool functionality we want and this connected world.”

Does it mean we become ignorant to the fact our data may be exposed? Certainly not. In fact, as BIA’s Alon Israely notes, it may result in an added level of due diligence when selecting cloud providers and vetting their security measures.

The consensus seems to revolve around the fact that we’ve always believed Big Brother is out there – now it’s merely been confirmed, which isn’t really going to change our behavior much.

“We are all tracking what people do on our websites – Google is tracking everything we’re doing and profiting from it. We also know security demands are being driven by the same government that is doing similar tracking,” notes Hostway’s Aaron Hollobaugh. “I don’t think what’s been revealed recently by the NSA will have a dramatic impact on the type of trusted relationships we can create with partners and customers.”

Sandy Steier from 1010 Data and Chris Smith from Cloud Technology Partners agree. While the confirmation that our government has access to some of our data may be disconcerting, we shouldn’t be surprised. Nor should that realization be cause for undue concern, as the NSA’s reach will extend into the cloud or into your own data centers, and we may as well become comfortable with that knowledge and the governance and regulatory controls that come with it.

Wiretapping has always been a reality, so the fact that federal agencies are now looking at our data should come as no surprise – it was only a matter of time after our communications began moving from circuit- to packet-switched networks. That time is here.

“As much as we may be scared of Big Brother, at the same time, we leverage technology and there are a number of great tools you can add onto to your Inbox or data stores that deliver a lot of great analytics,” notes Israely. “That’s a third party potentially watching your data – is that worse than the NSA?”

So while this has become a topic of conversation, this isn’t likely to have a significant business impact – though it may have an impact on people’s view of the Federal government, painting the NSA and other entities as the new bogeyman. Nobody is running to Verizon stores to turn in their phones; people aren’t shuttering their Facebook accounts; and Android phones are outselling Apple at last count. 

To see what all the folks I spoke to had to say about cloud computing and the NSA, check out the Cloud Expo NY 2013 videos on the TechZone360 videos page. Also note that security and privacy will be among the many cloud-focused topics we’ll be discussing at ITEXPO in Las Vegas at the end of the month – check out the agenda for ITEXPO and Cloud4SMB Expo to create your custom schedule for the week.

Image via Shutterstock

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

Group Editorial Director

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