Today’s new revelations from Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing show that the NSA can, and does, use a program that surveils our Internet behavior in a general, blanket way (much in the nature of the “general warrants” that were the whole reason the authors of the Bill of Rights put the Fourth Amendment in there in the first place!).
Make no mistake: this deep and broad US government surveillance diminishes trust not just in the federal government (as if there is any general trust in the federal government any more), but also in Internet companies — communications companies, ISPs, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and so on. The economic implications of the deep and broad US government surveillance are profound. How much economic activity on the Internet will leave those companies? Will government surveillance be able to access substitutes for these companies in other countries, if substitutes come into being? Isn’t this going to cause the commercial Internet to shrink?
The federal government may not have intended to stifle the role of the Internet as an economic value-creating commercial platform, but that consequence is almost certain.
UPDATE, 1 August, 3:19 CDT: Welcome readers from reddit, and thanks for the link! Since some commenters wanted more original analysis of this issue than I intended, I’ve recommended a follow-up post that provides deeper evaluation of the potential effects on the Internet as a commercial platform.