Cloud adoption suffers in the wake of NSA snooping

Due to PRISM, non-U.S. firms are avoiding Stateside cloud providers, but government access to cloud data can't be stopped

According to a survey by the Cloud Security Alliance, 10 percent of the CSA's non-U.S. members have canceled a contract with a U.S.-based cloud provider due to fears of U.S. government abuse of their citizens' data, a fear stoked by revelations of extensive spying on electronic communications by the U.S. National Security Agency through its PRISM program. Moreover, 56 percent said they were now less likely to use an American company.

As CIO.com's Kenneth Corbin wrote, "The media accounts of the program based on leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have created a perception that the U.S. government has unlimited and direct access to data stored on the servers of companies like Google and Microsoft, experts said."

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I predicted this backlash, but it was not that hard to foresee. The press framed PRISM as a collaboration between U.S. intelligence and key cloud technology companies. Just as American companies would feel queasy about putting their data in, say, European clouds if E.U. governments were known to be engaging in the same shenanigans as the NSA, so do non-American companies feel queasy about U.S. cloud providers now.

But the world marches on. Although you certainly should consider the risks that outside government agencies -- American and non-American alike -- will come calling for your data at some point, I'm not sure that keeping it out of the cloud will provide the protections you seek. As I've pointed out here a few times, if a government wants your data, it will get it -- one way or another.

Businesses, no matter where they're based, need to make critical decisions around the use of cloud computing. Although the surveillance scandal should be part of that assessment, your decision should not turn solely on it. It's simply another risk to consider against the benefits of deploying public and private cloud systems.

The NSA scandal is a PR problem for U.S. cloud providers that will take time to overcome. I suspect that after a while, the non-U.S. companies will resume the trek toward cloud computing, using U.S.-based firms again. We seem to have a short memory in the world of technology.

This article, "Cloud adoption suffers in the wake of NSA snooping," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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