If privacy rights weren’t reason enough to curb the NSA’s surveillance program, the economic implications of the program may offer an even more compelling argument. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington DC-based think tank, the NSA’s programs is hitting the country where it really hurts — its collective pocketbook, by costing U.S. tech companies up to $35 billion in foreign business by 2016. This may be the most persuasive ammunition to date for critics of the NSA’s programs.
According to the report, “The economic impact of U.S. surveillance practices will likely far exceed ITIF’s initial $35 billion estimate. Foreign companies have seized on these controversial policies to convince their customers that keeping data at home is safer than sending it abroad, and foreign governments have pointed to U.S. surveillance as justification for protectionist policies that require data to be kept within their borders.”
This is particularly concerning considering the current profitability and success of the American tech industry, with companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple leading the way. Of course, Facebook and Google have come under intense scrutiny of their own when it comes to data protection and privacy rights, but problems at the federal level still outpace those of individual corporations.
ITIF also included a number of recommendations in its report on how to avoid these potentially catastrophic losses for the tech industry, urging the American government to step up transparency when it comes to surveillance, implementing improved information security policies, and strengthening international agreements that seek to protect consumer privacy.
Study authors Daniel Castro and Alan McQuinn warned, “When historians write about this period in US history it could very well be that one of the themes will be how the United States lost its global technology leadership to other nations.” To protect not only American soft power, but our wallets as well, ITIF is urging the NSA to make a change.