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Slap 'Not made in the USA' stickers on your gear, says analyst chief

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Channels Forum 2013 Claims that NSA spooks are snooping on everyone's internet connections have alarmed libertarians and digital-rights activists around the world.

But despite the fact that such electronic eavesdropping has been going on for decades, the leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden could net IT vendors and the tech distribution channel a tidy windfall.

That's assuming said firms are prepared to go head to head with the might of the US intelligence community.

Canalys CEO Steve Brazier, opening his research firm's Channels Forum 2013 shindig in Barcelona, said the Snowden scandal had real implications and yet offered real opportunities.

"For the last 20 years, politics hasn't mattered to our industry. Suddenly, politics is important," said Brazier.

But he added that, judging by his own figures, a good chunk of channel companies are unaware of the summer's stream of revelations of how far the US, the UK and their pals have apparently compromised internet providers, security technologies and on-premises hardware.

Brazier predicted three key outcomes - even if much of what has been revealed turns out to be "untrue".

Firstly, he said, there will be a change in how vendors and service providers incorporate security and market themselves around it. He cited the example of file-sharing biz Lockbox, which offers clients end-to-end encryption, or search engine DuckDuckGo, which doesn't track its users' searches and therefore can't (in theory) be forced to hand them over to the Feds.

He predicted the Snowden leaks will also drive the adoption of open-source software on the basis that any compromise by the likes of the NSA or anyone else will be clear to the rest of the open-source community.

Perhaps most interestingly, Washington's effort to document the world could lead to increasing localisation of hardware, software and services. Rather than trusting the big US-based providers, customers may look to providers in their own countries to protect their bytes.

"We expect customers will insist their data will stay in their country," he said. He cited the example of Deutsche Telekom, which has launched a "made in Germany" email service that attempts to guarantee that messages never touch US networks unless absolutely necessary. Brazil, too, was contemplating legislation that would force service providers to site data centres in the South American country.

Given that the NSA's backdoors may have been secretly implanted in on-premises networking equipment, customers and foreign governments may consider non-US manufacturers of said tech. Given that phones in the UK have to be certified before they can be plugged into Blighty's landline network, Brazier speculated that similar regimes could be implemented for IT products and services.

"That will be complicated for the multinationals ... it may provide some opportunities for local companies," he predicted. ®

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