The Canadian government is offering to store bulk data for U.S. tech giants like Google and Facebook in the wake of unveiled domestic spying programs by the National Security Agency.
Canadian officials appear poised to take advantage of the fallout in consumer trust Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are experiencing after the surveillance programs leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed users’ data is far from private and secure. Some documents even allege companies worked with the signals intelligence agency to give direct access to their data banks.
According to founder and chief executive of the Canadian Cloud Council Robert Hart, there is now a growing push in the Canadian government to store Silicon Valley’s databanks north of the border to increase Americans’ confidence in the service, software and hardware providers and stem their potential profit loss.
“There are governmental agencies right now in Canada who are actively trying to recruit Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook and trying to convince them to build cloud infrastructure in Canada,” Hart said in a Wednesday interview with the Toronto Star.
“I would say there’s a lot of movement right now at a political level to convince some of these larger software companies… to host their software in Canada to get that data away from the NSA for optical reasons,” Hart said.
The NSA’s overzealous spying efforts could end up costing the U.S. economy significantly if Silicon Valley seizes opportunities like the one offered by Canada. One estimate cited by the Star said the move could cost up to $35 billion in lost U.S. economic revenue in just three years from a cloud-computing industry expected to be worth $200 billion by 2016.
“I think right now Canadian and international organizations have a monumental opportunity to capture a lot of business from organizations that no longer want to deal with the States,” Hart said.
Canada could likely be the most ideally-suited foreign location to build the enormous warehouses that house the digital storage servers and cloud infrastructure of companies like Google, thanks to its naturally cold climate and cheap energy. Documents leaked by Snowden reveal these data hubs to be some of the NSA’s primary targets.
Though moving the physical infrastructure for data storage international could be a useful talking point for companies to convince consumers their privacy and data are safe, the reality is that it likely wouldn’t be — and may actually be less safe.
The NSA’s official mandate is to intercept foreign signals for the purpose of intelligence gathering, a goal upon which few legal barriers impede. Domestically, the agency is supposed to adhere to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rulings and warrants to obtain permission to spy, though recent documents prove they have found ways of bending and outright breaking those rules.
A leaked program called MUSCULAR, for example, detailed how breaking into the cloud storage networks of companies like Google was even easier overseas by hacking in through international service way stations and fiber-optic cable connection points.
“The NSA hires probably the smartest hackers on the planet Earth. If they want to get into somebody’s data, they’re going to get it, no doubt about it,” Hart said.