U.S. eavesdropping threatens cloud computing security, says Wikipedia founder

The U.S.'s alleged large-scale surveillance of global communications networks will badly harm the American cloud computing industry, the founder of Wikipedia said on Thursday.

Surveillance of communications undermines U.S. cloud services, internet freedom, says Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, above, says recent allegations that the U.S. is involved in wide-ranging surveillance of global communications compromise people's faith in cloud services that allow data to be stored online. They also undermine the efforts of companies like Wikimedia trying to get oppressive regimes to relax their censorship of the internet. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

The U.S.'s alleged large-scale surveillance of global communications networks will badly harm the American cloud computing industry, the founder of Wikipedia said on Thursday.

Jimmy Wales, who launched the online encyclopedia service 12 year ago, said the U.S. eavesdropping, revealed by leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, also poses a threat to internet freedoms by giving an excuse to oppressive regimes to introduce more censorship.

"It's going to have a big impact on the cloud computing industry as people are afraid to put data in the U.S., but it's also devastating for the kind of work I do," Wales told reporters after speaking at an IT event in Norway.

"If you are BMW, a car maker in Germany ... you probably are not that comfortable putting your data into the U.S. any more," said the former futures trader who is still a key player at Wikipedia, one of the most popular websites in the world.

Cloud computing is an umbrella term for activities ranging from web-based email to business software that is run remotely via the internet instead of on-site. It is being adopted by big companies and governments globally to cut costs and give flexibility to their IT departments.

Snowden's leaks revealing the reach and methods of U.S. surveillance have prompted angry calls for explanations from France to Brazil. Germany has been particularly annoyed by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Wales said the revelations made it more difficult to convince oppressive regimes to respect basic freedoms and privacy as Wikipedia seeks to limit censorship of its content.

"They (spying revelations) give the Chinese every excuse to be as bad as they have been ... It's really embarrassing," he said. "It's an enormous problem, an enormous danger."

China and countries in the Middle East have been most active in filtering Wikipedia content to restrict access to certain information, Wales said.

He said Wikipedia had no plan to introduce advertising.

"If we need to do that to survive, we will do what's needed to survive, but we are not discussing that," he said. "Some places have to remain free of commerce ... Wikipedia is a temple for the mind."

Wikipedia has been financed through a non-profit foundation, Wikimedia, which reported revenues of $38.4 million US for the fiscal year 2011-2012, including $35.1 million in donations and contributions.


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