The message was clear: Speaking about widespread U.S. and British spying via the Internet, Christian Illek, head of Microsoft’s German operations, warned that the entire information technology industry must respond and “get out into the open.”
When customers ask for special security features about how and where their information is stored, he said, “we cannot stand in condemnation. We must be responsive to these wishes.”
The first revelations of a vast global surveillance network began to emerge last year, triggered by the leaks from Edward Snowden, a U.S. National Security Agency employee turned whistleblower. They showed that the NSA has access to all kinds of personal information compiled over the Internet and mobile phone networks, and possibly could use it to snoop into everyday lives.
Since then, more and more details have come to light – with massive consequences for IT companies. “The NSA affair has inflicted lasting damage on trust, especially among commercial customers,” said Mr. Illek.
Speaking at a recent U.S. Senate discussion on digital surveillance, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt echoed that sentiment. He said he feared it could “end up breaking the Internet.”