Will surveillance spell the end of trust?

The core of the internet’s economic engine is trust and, as Ramsey Homsany of Dropbox said, the lack of it has begun “to rot it from the inside out.” This was during the recent workshop on surveillance hosted by Senator Ron Wyden. Present were Eric Schmidt of Google and Senior Counsel from Facebook, Microsoft and Dropbox.

Apart from putting customers off using services, it will make the lives of web companies more difficult and expensive. One reaction to the US Government wanting to know what everyone is doing all the time is for overseas Governments to insist on local data centres. Brazil, Germany and Russia have all said that if a company wants to offer services to their residents, then they must have a ‘local’ presence. By which they mean data centre.

Not surprising, then, that the backlash has begun. The workshop in Palo Alto was one spin off, others include Microsoft telling the Government to ‘back off’ and Twitter suing the Government over user data request gag rules.

The question for us, amidst the turmoil that is emerging, is whether operators retain enough trust to save the day. The other question is how much do we actually mind being spied on. Or how much trust do we expect.

How much do you expect to trust your bank? A lot. If you were suddenly told that a third party knew what you spent where and that information was being used by a retailer, say, to make you special offers to lure you away from your normal suppliers, would you like that or hate it?

How much do you expect to trust Google, or Facebook? This definitely varies. Some think it is rather nice to be offered an album of their recent trip to Amsterdam, others would think it is a complete invasion. Google is, at least, honest about it, knowing that people who want a hair cut are going to Google ‘hair cut.’ People expect it.

How much do you expect to trust your service provider? That remains to be seen. But there is an opportunity here because the people in the firing line are the OTT players not the communications providers. So, maybe, while those guys face “a clear and present danger to the internet economy,” operators might just be able to become the trusted partners in the digital world.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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