Ironically, in autocratic countries, the two threats come together, which is why Vietnam is nervous and why Saudi Arabia recently banned Viber: Their state-controlled telcos are losing money, and it's harder for them to monitor or block communication over the network.
The core notion of the consumerization phenomenon is self-empowerment. As technology gets democratized, the old-guard monopolies and oligarchies -- like the traditional telcos and the Big Brother apparatus in goverments everywhere -- are threatened. But they also adjust. We tend to forget that much of Silicon Valley's foundational innovation was funded directly or indirectly by the U.S. Defense Dept., and there's been a cozy relationship all along.
The Web companies may act as if they're surprised the NSA is accessing their servers, but such access has been routine forever. The telcos likewise are government proxies when asked. When you read their denials of providing backdoor access, they all say they cooperate with lawful requests -- and as the people who make the requests set the laws, that means they provide what they are asked, even if the legislators don't know it and as the Snowden revelations show so clearly.
All of this is why what may appear as a David-and-Goliath story of tech pioneers outmaneuvering the big but stodgy establishment is not so simple. The chat providers need to make money, and that will lead them to the same calculations as any other communications business: cooperate with the government to maintain access to the networks they rely on.
But their existence complicates the control desired by old-guard telcos and Big Brother governments, so they should be encouraged. Even if governments manage to corral them, there's a period in which these services are less controlled than the traditional ones, and thus a venue for freer communications (from a political point of view). We saw that in Arab Spring uprisings and in Iran's wave of protests some years ago: Twitter and other social media provided a conduit for communications at a critical time, even if the governments were at some point able to block them.
This may feel all 1960s-radical, and it is in a sense. Work around The Man using the new technologies as they become available, and keep the corporate oligarchs and spy agencies off guard when possible. Just be clear that these technologies are likely to become part of the establishment at some point. It's just what happens.
This article, "Go free chat! Disruptive services outrun Big Brother," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.