Stormclouds gather around US cloud computing suppliers after Snowden revelations.
The massive scale of online spying by US government agencies has completely changed business perceptions about the security and privacy of electronic communications and has brought about a radical rethink on the future of the Internet.
Nine out of ten business leaders now indicate that they are seriously reconsidering their attachment to and reliance on cloud computing and are seeking much more secure and hack-proof data storage technologies based on non-US made equipment and services, as well as evaluating the development of secure local, national and regional Internets rather than a global, borderless network.
What will be particularly worrying to US technology companies and cloud computing equipment manufacturers (such as Google, Facebook; Cisco, Microsoft and HP) will be the strong likelihood of a severe backlash against them and other American-made Internet and data storage products and services.
Published today, the NTT survey, "NSA Aftershocks: How Snowden has Changed IT Decision-Makers' Approach to the Cloud" analyses and synthesises the detailed responses of 1,000 ICT decision-makers from France, Germany, Hong Kong, the UK and the US.
The survey is statistically significant and the report shows just how much damage the insidious and now-revealed extent of US cyber-surveillance has had on businesses and their attitudes to cloud computing, networks and the Internet.
Among the main findings of the NTT survey are that nine out of ten of executives involved in making far-reaching decisions about ICT strategy are questioning whether cloud computing is right for them, post-Snowden. What's more. 38 per cent have already decided to move from cloud computing to other, more secure data storage solutions. This is more than a straw in the wind. A full-strength storm against US kit and systems is brewing and it could cost American companies - and the greater US economy - very dear.
Attitudes have been changed completely with a mere five per cent of respondents now believing that the location of stored corporate or private data is does not matter and will be OK. What's more, 31 per cent of those surveyed are already moving data to locations that are known to be safe, secure and private - and that means away from US equipment, services and the US-domiated "global" Internet.
It gets even worse for the US IT and comms industries with 62 per cent of those surveyed that had been considering using cloud computing and virtual data storage solutions abandoning the idea and the the process. They will will no longer subscribe to cloud-based solutions - especially American ones. And, for those that still prefer to go down the cloud route, the trend now is for companies to join a cloud service located and managed from within their own region. This is particularly true in the EU where, in light of Snowden, 97 per cent of respondents said they will henceforth opt for European solutions and networks.
Since Snowden tooted his trumpet and spilled the beans on the extent of US eavesdropping on allies, 16 per cent of ICT decision-makers have either cancelled or have not not completed contracts with US cloud service providers while 52 per cent are carrying out further research into and due diligence on them. Many say that they will take their cloud business (and money) elsewhere.
Other aspects of the survey are that 84 per cent of respondents say they need more information about, and training in various data protection laws - including those of the US that have been so comprehensively traduced.
Finally, 82 per cent agree completely with proposals set forth by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (whose private communications were intercepted by the NSA and others) to the effect that data networks should be separated and secured from US interception and interference.
Len Padilla, the VP of Product Strategy at NTT Communications in Europe, commented, "Our findings show that the NSA allegations have hardened ICT decision-makers' attitudes towards cloud computing, whether it is modifying procurement policies, scrutinising potential suppliers or taking a heightened interest in where their data is stored."
The fact is that Edward Snowden's revelations continue to impact adversely on perceptions of the trustworthiness and truthfulness of various US agencies and that suspicion is now knocking-on into distrust of US suppliers of cloud computing as well as data storage companies.
Around the world, from Australia to Brazil, from India to Germany and from New Zealand to Zambia there are proposals to foster regional online communications to be routed locally via much more secure networks that will be much less vulnerable to covert US surveillance.
As Daniel Castro of the Washington, DC-headquartered and politically-neutral think-tank, the 'Information Technology and Innovation Foundation' says, "The Snowden revelations have led to a paradigm shift in how IT decision-mnakers buy techology. Now companies are not just competing on price and quality, they are also competing on geography. There is anecdotal evidence [and now empirical evidence as well. Ed.] that suggests US tech firms are going to be hit hard in the coming backlash against technology that is made in America. This might just be the final nail in the coffin for the vision of a global, borderless Internet."
Mr. Casto calculates that over the next three years the the effect on the bottom line of US technology companies "could be US$35 billion". Meanwhile, the likes of Huawei, ZTE and Ericsson will be laughing all the way to the bank.
And let us remember that Edward Snowden is no 'anti-American pinko-liberal' of the type so despised by the Tea Party et al. He is a right-wing, libertarian Republican who, when he saw for himself the extent to which some US government agencies have violated and traduced the supposedly inviolate US Constitution, (the cornerstone upon which all US superstructure stands) and then lied to the Congress and the President about about it whilst, simultaneously, doing everything they could to avoid or negate any meaningful democratic oversight, felt so angry and betrayed that he blew the whistle and pulled the roof in. As well as Snowden, who is now exiled in Russia and, reportedly, in fear of his life, it will be US tech companies that will pay the immediate price. However, it may take a lot longer for the US itself to repair the damage it has caused and to regain the trust of its allies.
NTT Communications commissioned market research firm Vanson Bourne to carry out an extensive survey of 1,000 IT decision-makers from the UK (200 respondents), France (200 respondents), Germany (200 respondents), Hong Kong (100 respondents), and the USA (300 respondents), in February and March this year. Sixty percent of respondents were drawn from businesses with 1,000 employees or more, representing sectors including financial services, retail, manufacturing, professional services, IT, and energy.