Without quantifying the company's potential losses, a Google lawyer recently warned a Senate subcommittee that the government's online espionage could have "severe unintended consequences," including increased business costs, less data security and alienated Web surfers.
"The impact on U.S. companies, and the broader U.S. economy, could be significant," said Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, during a Nov. 13 appearance before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.
In a worst case scenario, Forrester's James Staten initially theorized that global cloud computing services could lose as much as $180 billion over the next three years if corporate customers become worried about their crucial data falling into the hands of any government.
That dire figure has been widely circulated by media outlets, but Staten told The Associated Press he now believes chances are remote that losses will surpass $20 billion. That's because he is convinced most companies around the world are already encrypting the vital information they store on the computers of outside vendors.
"The reality is no enterprise is going to be naive," Staten says. "They are going to take the security into their own hands because they realize we live in a regulated world where every government is watching."
Wary of the U.S. government's electronic espionage, Brazil's president ordered a series of measures aimed at greater online independence and security for a country that boasts Latin America's largest economy. Other countries and international regulators are considering strict rules for data-handling by U.S. tech companies. If that were to happen, it could cripple the companies' crucial drive to grow in overseas markets, and could fracture the Internet's seamless inner-workings.
"Try and compete in Europe when the Europeans think that their data is not secure with you," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who is a key standard bearer for Silicon Valley in Congress.