At a recent Cato Institute event on NSA spying activities, the ACLU’s Chris Soghoian stated that NSA activities were not only a threat to privacy but were also a direct threat to businesses.
On a panel that included Jim Burrows of Silent Circle, Soghoian lamented that NSA data collection amounts to a prohibition of certain business models. Silent Circle is a Web service that provides encryption software text and voice messages — and, until recently, emails. A similar company, Lavabit, is best known as the email provider used by Edward Snowden.
Lavabit was forced to close its services entirely due to NSA requests to build backdoor access to data. Silent Circle chose to discontinue its own email service in response to Lavabit’s closing. Lavabit’s founder explained the situation on their blog post announcing the shutdown:
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.
The choice was not easy: go against the very principles that are the center of your business model, or close up business for good. Lavabit chose the latter option and shut down its services. Silent Circle did not receive a request from the NSA, but preemptively shutdown its own services as well.
Email services are not the only types of businesses that are being affected by the NSA revelations. Earlier this year, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation released a report concluding that the NSA leaks could cost U.S. cloud providers between $21.5 and $35 billion dollars over the next three years.
With the NSA’s actions not only harming civil liberties but also destroying various businesses, Congress must act immediately to rein in the agency.