Government's Surveillance is Breaking the Internet

Eric Schmidt
Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc.

The search giant Google has created technologies that changed many things from the way we communicate, how we use the internet, to how we embrace mobile devices. Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt who feels internet freedom is vital to innovation, describes all of Google's successes and failures, falls into one motto: Don't be Evil.

The internet has gotten deep inside the lives of people. As more and more people around the globe uses the internet on a daily basis, they will share more about themselves whether they like it or not. This has proven that the internet holds a lot of information about people, both that are visible and hidden. And this fact has caught the eyes of the government.

"We don't want these NSA and other people in it... And the cost of that is huge," said Schmidt. "The impact … is severe and getting worse."

Post-Snowden era, people are becoming more worried about their personal data that are trusted to internet companies. They have wondered whether these companies would allow government officials to take a peek into their privacy. And internet companies are taking this concerns seriously.

For years, the NSA was engaged in questionable surveillance practices. But it was not until Snowden's revelations that confirmed their widespread monitoring programs, catching worldwide attention.

"Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should do it," said Schmidt criticizing NSA's surveillance.

American tech companies have long cautioned the U.S. government that their global competitiveness is being "walled" because users mistrust them. Revelations about the surveillance have tarnished the reputations of many Silicon Valley companies. They fear that the data they provide may not be safe from intelligence agencies.

Some documents have suggested that U.S. tech giants were complicit in handing users' information to the government, an accusation that the executives deny. Tech companies say they only respond to legal demands for user data. Any wholesale surveillance, they insist, was done without their help or knowledge.

"You own the email or text messages or content you create," said Schmidt. "Even if when you put your content on our data centers, you still own it, and you're entitled to the legal protections from the Constitution. That's one of the reasons we need Congress to act."

Joining Schmidt were Microsoft Executive Vice President Brad Smith, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, Dropbox General Counsel Ramsey Homsany and John Lilly, a venture capitalist with Greylock Partners. Tech executives are worried that the fallout of surveillance revelations could be severe, and all of them are critical of the NSA.

To tech companies, the issue is a matter of profits and a legal debate. At one side, tech companies could lose billions of dollars because of canceled contracts and opportunities. And on the other side, surveillance keeps innovations away.

Schmidt said that the digital surveillance techniques of the government and other foreign intelligence agencies need to reform. Schmidt once took a shot at government attempting to restrict information by saying that there is nothing more important than information, and to become a restrictive government, a dictator, the government just need to control that information to keep the freedom of expression under control.

And if the governments kept spying their citizens, they are putting their trust on their own people aside. And that will result to many things. After Snowden revealed NSA's surveillance program, about a quarter of people do less online shopping, and many countries are trying to "localize" their data to be more secured.

"The simplest outcome is that we're going to end up breaking the internet," Schmidt said.