Category Archives: National Security Agency

PRISM Scandal Generates Renewed Interest in Non-US Cloud Providers

Guest Post by Mateo Meier, founder of Swiss hosting provider Artmotion

Businesses vote with their feet, in light of the recent PRISM scandal. Up until recently, the US had been considered the leading destination for cloud services with its vast infrastructures and innovative service offerings, but recent leaks have sparked panic amongst many business owners and is driving demand for Non US cloud providers.

The most concerning aspect for many is the wide ranging implications of using US-controlled cloud services, such as AWS, Azure and Dropbox. As a result, businesses are now turning to Switzerland and other secure locations for their data hosting needs.

Swiss ‘private’ hosting companies are seeing huge growth because privacy in Switzerland is enshrined in law. As the country is outside of the EU, it is not bound by pan-European agreements to share data with other member states, or worse, the US. Artmotion, for example, has witnessed 45 per cent growth in revenue amid this new demand for heightened privacy.

Until now the PRISM scandal has focused on the privacy of the individual, but the surveillance undertaken by NSA and Britain’s own GCHQ has spurred corporate concern about the risks associated with using American based cloud providers to host data. It is especially troubling for businesses with data privacy issues, such as banks or large defence and healthcare organisations with ‘secret’ research and development needs.

Before PRISM, the US was at the forefront of the cloud computing industry and companies worldwide flocked to take advantage of the scalable benefits of cloud hosting, as well as the potential cost savings it offered.

However the scandal has unearthed significant risks to data for businesses, as well as for their customers. With US cloud service providers, the government can request business information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without the company in question ever knowing its data has been accessed.

For businesses large and small, data vulnerabilities and the threat of industrial espionage from US hosting sites can present real security risks or privacy implications, and it’s causing a real fear. Business owners are worried that by using US based systems, private information could potentially be seen by prying eyes.

The desire for data privacy has therefore seen a surge in large corporations turning to ‘Silicon’ Switzerland to take advantage of the country’s renowned privacy culture. Here they can host data without fear of it being accessed by foreign governments.


Mateo Meier, founder of Artmotion, spent the early stages of his career in the US before returning home to Switzerland to start Artmotion. Artmotion was started in early 2000 and provides highly bespoke server solutions to an international set of clients.

Breaking: US Cloud Companies To Lose Billions In EU Due To PRISM

The European Commission’s vice president Neelie Kroes said in statement that reports of the US government spying on servers held by US cloud providers are creating an “atmosphere of distrust” around cloud services.

“Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes?” Kroes said. “Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all.”

“If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government or their assurances, then maybe they won’t trust US cloud providers either. That is my guess. And if I am right then there are multi-billion euro consequences for American companies.”

The Future of Tech Companies, the NSA, and Your Information

Guest Post by Lewis Jacobs

Verizon and the NSA

Last week, the technology world was turned upside down when the Guardian broke the news that the National Security Agency had directed telecommunications company Verizon to release customer call records and metadata on an “ongoing daily basis.”

Though the metadata doesn’t include the audio content of calls, it does include the phone numbers on both ends of calls, the devices and location of both parties involved, and the time and duration of calls.

The order was leaked by Edward Snowden, an analyst for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton at the NSA. The order targets both international and domestic calls, and it does not contain parameters for who can see the data or whether or not the data will be destroyed after NSA use.

Though the White House and the NSA say that the data will only be used for counter-terrorism efforts and other national security measures, the order nonetheless gives the federal government access to data from all of Verizon’s more than 100 million customers.

Since the story broke, there has been significant debate over whether the NSA is working within the regulations of the First and Fourth Amendments or whether it is violating citizens’ rights to free speech and privacy. The White House has defended the order as a necessary measure for national security. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and several U.S. lawmakers, disagree.

What it means for the future

The controversy raises the question of whether or not other technology and telecommunications companies will be required to follow suit—or whether they already have. Amy Davidson at the New Yorker speculates that the leaked Verizon order is “simply one of a type—the one that fell off the truck.” Adam Banner at the Huffington Post wonders, “How many other ‘top secret’ court orders are currently in action with countless other information providers?”

The NSA is said to have been monitoring and collecting customer data from some of the world’s largest technology companies with the help of surveillance program PRISM. But many companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and AOL, have denied providing the government direct access to their users’ information. Google, one of the companies to deny any knowledge of PRISM, wrote an open letter to the Attorney General and the FBI requesting to make public any federal requests for data.

In any case, it’s unlikely that the NSA demanded customer information only from Verizon, meaning that the federal government could be (and probably is) accessing information about citizens through their phone providers, their email services, and their search engines. Faced with federal orders, there’s not much that technology companies can do in opposition.

The future of NSA technology surveillance will depend, of course, on its legality, which is yet to be determined. It’s unclear whether or not the NSA’s actions fall under the provisions of the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, the Constitution, and federal government’s system of checks and balances.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently announced their plan to sue the White House Administration for violating the privacy rights of Americans. On the other side, whistleblower Edward Snowden is currently under investigation for the disclosure of classified information, an offense that could result in life in prison.

This article was submitted by Lewis Jacobs, an avid blogger and tech enthusiast. He enjoys fixing computers and writing about internet trends. Currently he is writing about an internet in my area campaign for local internet providers.