The revelations about the spying activities of the NSA continue to reverberate around the world. Most Americans seem to be primarily concerned with the issue of whether their 4th amendment rights might be violated. Collection of data about citizens and governments of other nations has raised little concern in US discourse. One frequently hears the comment that it is the job of the NSA to spy on foreigners. Various developments are beginning to suggest that this view may be seriously short sighted.
The internet as we know it today originated in the good old USA. Networks from the 1960s such as ARPANET developed the technology that was the take off point. It was in the 1980s that it developed into a globally connected internet. The major infrastructure such as the backbone that routes traffic is located in the US. The dominant tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook are also based there.
The revelation provided by Edward Snowden have provided documentation as to how the NSA has made use of these US based facilities in its data collection activity. The US tech companies have been involved in some degree of cooperative effort with government data collection. They would have us believe that they have only done so when forced to comply by secret court order. Some of them are presently attempting to get the secret orders declassified in an effort to establish their “innocence”. However, other revelations about the installation of backdoors in applications and netwroks are suggesting that the government/private cooperation has been considerably more extensive.
These developments have already raised the possibility of individuals and businesses switching their business from US based tech companies to those based in other countries. There are an ample number of them with the capacity to provide the same type of services. However, that still leaves the infrastructure that is used by everyone accessing the internet. It has been revealed that the NSA and the British intelligence service have been scooping up raw data from the backbone and the trans-Atlantic cables and storing it and attempting to decrypt it. The nature of the internet is such that a message going from Hong Kong to Berlin may have much or all of its content pass through the US.
Various governments have reacted with expressions ranging from concern to anger over reports of US spying on their governments and on the lives of private citizens in their country. Now one of them is formulating a plan to do something about it.
Brazil plans to divorce itself from the U.S.-centric Internet over Washington's widespread online spying, a move that many experts fear will be a potentially dangerous first step toward fracturing a global network built with minimal interference by governments.This is not just angry rhetoric for public consumption. Brazil already has some very specific plans for internet independence underway.
President Dilma Rousseff ordered a series of measures aimed at greater Brazilian online independence and security following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted her communications, hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company's network and spied on Brazilians who entrusted their personal data to U.S. tech companies such as Facebook and Google.
The leader is so angered by the espionage that she's considering cancelling a trip to Washington next month where she's scheduled to be honored with a state dinner.
Requiring that the data of Brazilian users be stored on servers located in Brazil
Laying direct under water fiber optic cables to Europe and dirrect links to other South American nations
Telebras, the state run communications company, plans to launch its own satellite in 2016
Building more internet exchange points to route data away from the US
It's postal service is creating an encrypted email service
Brazil has a growing partnership with other nations that have emerging economies, known as the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
If such a response is adopted by other countries it could have far ranging impacts on the internet as we know it. It could lead to a Balkanization that limits the seamless global communication that we have become accustomed to. None of this looks like a bright spot for Silicon Valley. If major disruptions do come about, much of the responsibility can be laid at the feet of the US government and its overreach.