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Tech CEOs warn of threats to cloud, Big Data Economy

Kenneth Corbin | March 17, 2014
Leaders of some of the nation's top tech firms say protectionist cloud policies and Internet restrictions could undermine the potential of the data revolution. To that end, they call on policymakers to advocate the free flow of information across national borders -- and to pay special attention to nations restricting Internet freedom.

In response, tech leaders lobby against those proposals overseas and seek to promote safeguards for cross-border data flows in U.S. trade policy.

"Countries that take a protectionist view and say, 'I'm going to protect my data and make sure that it's secure for my own economic purposes or political purposes,' or for whatever reason, really run the significant risk of cutting themselves off from this bounty that comes with the data economy," says D. Mark Durcan, CEO of Micron Technology.

Foreign cloud protectionist policies, which arose in part due to concerns over the access to digital records afforded to the U.S. government through the Patriot Act, have only mounted in the wake of the revelations about intelligence-gathering programs brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The Snowden disclosures have also prompted calls from some world leaders for a more global approach to Internet oversight that would shift power away from the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Tech Doesn't Want U.N. Responsible for Internet Governance
But another Internet governance issue has tech leaders - and many members of Congress - more concerned about the future of the data economy and online freedom of expression. They point to countries with checkered records on Internet freedom, such as China and Russia, and see the potential for the fragmentation of the Internet - a symptom of states creating top-down communications systems that curtail online freedom and limit access to the global Web.

Those policies, supported by efforts to shift more Internet governance responsibilities to the United Nations, could pose a greater threat to the data economy and online freedom than any of the protectionist initiatives being advanced by countries with otherwise liberal Internet policies.

"It would not be good for anyone in the world," says IBM President and CEO Virginia Rometty. "That's not just a U.S. statement."


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