Around the world in NSA spying fallout

In the wake of the revelation about the Prism program that involves American technology giants sharing user information with the NSA, we go around the world in fallout news — fallout that could affect the overseas business of Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Facebook.

• First stop, Russia. Officials there have recommended limiting use of services such as Gmail and Facebook by civil servants. One member of parliament reportedly says civil servants’ employment contracts should say that “by sending information through U.S. services they not only fill up the dossiers on themselves and their organizations but can provide aid to a foreign state or organization that are engaged in anti-Russian activities. This falls under article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code as this is high treason.”

The Washington Post reported that the goal of the government’s Prism program is to track foreign targets, although Americans’ communications with those targets can get caught in the net.

• In Asia, some government and security officials have no choice but to use American tech companies’ offerings, according to Reuters. That’s because many countries in Asia don’t have their own reliable services, or services such as Yahoo’s Web-based email might be more powerful than what’s available. This means officials sometimes send out sensitive information that could possibly be tracked by the NSA program. The report says, however, that countries such as Japan and Singapore prohibit the use of Web-based email for official business.

• Last stop is Europe, where the European Commission will seek privacy guarantees from the U.S. government during a meeting this week about the scope of upcoming broader free-trade talks between the two parties, the Guardian reports. A separate report last week by the Guardian said the GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, had access to the Prism program.

Europe has been considering a draft proposal, submitted last year, to strengthen data privacy laws.

U.S. tech companies have been lobbying against the tougher laws, prompting one European official to say earlier this year that “in the U.S., privacy is a consumer business. In Europe, data protection is a fundamental right. We think what’s right or wrong isn’t decided in Silicon Valley, but is decided in our capitals,” according to the Financial Times (registration required).


Photo from Associated Press archives


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