The CEO of Google warned Wednesday that U.S. government monitoring could "break the Internet."
Eric Schmidt joined legal executives from Facebook, Dropbox and Microsoft at a roundtable discussion in Silicon Valley to discuss the broader social and economic impacts of the National Security Agency spying revelations.
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith set the tone of the discussion when he said, “If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create. Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who organized the event, called on the U.S. government to "stop requiring American companies to participate in the suspicion-less collection of their customers’ data, and begin the process of rebuilding trust both at home and abroad."
Since NSA contractor Edward Snowden's 2013 bombshell revelations of the agency's spying techniques, about 20 countries have either proposed or discussed potential laws which would require Internet data in those countries to remain there. If such laws are enacted, they could be "detrimental" to the future of the Internet.
"More access points around the world make your network hard to secure [and] in a practical matter it makes us more vulnerable," Facebook legal counsel Colin Stretch pointed out.
Dropbox's Ramsey Homsany called on the U.S. government “to show the world that we are a country that respects these values."
But perhaps the most stunning admission came from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who said the "simplest outcome" of more countries keeping their digital data inside their of own borders would "end up breaking the Internet."
Schmidt added the cost would be huge in terms of shared knowledge, science and discovery. It would also be expensive since companies would need to maintain data centers in every country where they have customers, WIRED reported.
[sharequote align="center"]"...the simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the Internet.”[/sharequote]
"We have built this incredible economic engine in this region of the country... and trust is the one thing that starts to rot it from the inside out," Homsany said.
"We need to see the government also starting to do its part," he said.
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