The impact of US government surveillance on tech firms and the economy is going to get worse before it gets better, leaders at some of the biggest tech firms warned US Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday during a roundtable on the impact of US government surveillance on the digital economy.
The senior Democratic senator from Oregon took the floor at the Palo Alto High School gymnasium -- where he played high school basketball well enough to earn a college scholarship for his court-side abilities more than 50 years ago -- to discuss the economic impact and future risks of US government surveillance on technology firms.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who has been outspoken on the topic, pulled no punches with his assessment of how the spying scandal has and will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.
The impact is "severe and is getting worse," Schmidt said. "We're going to wind up breaking the Internet."
Also on the panel with Schmidt was Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith, another critic who became more outspoken of government surveillance after Edward Snowden leaked National Security Agency documents in 2013 that showed a much wider federal spying apparatus than previously believed.
"Just as people won't put their money in a bank they won't trust, people won't use an Internet they won't trust," Smith said.
Panelist Ramsey Homsany, general counsel for online storage company Dropbox, said the trust between customers and businesses that is at the core of the Internet's economic engine has begun to "rot it from the inside out."
"The trust element is extremely insidious," Homsany said. "It's about personal emails, it's about photos, it's about plans, it's about medical records."