US State Dept Says Local Data Storage Could Harm Internet’s Organic Growth

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A US State Department official spoke against regulations in countries like Russia that require local data storage on Thursday, according to a report by GigaOM.

“[People should not] use the Snowden revelations as an excuse for taking what are essentially protectionist measures that will harm the ability of the internet to work in an organic way,” a State Department official said.

When later asked if the US commitment to cybersecurity would include a pledge not to launch cyberattacks, the official said: “Just so there’s no misunderstanding here, I was talking about folks who were hacking to do malicious damage to businesses.”

The statement came ahead of next week’s Internet Governance Forum 2014 in Turkey, and follows the July passage of a Russian bill requiring citizens data be stored within the country’s borders.

A recent study indicated that many companies planned to relocate corporate data outside of the US but progress was made towards an “umbrella agreement” on data protection when Attorney General Eric Holder announced in June the US was seeking to extend the same privacy protections to EU citizens that apply to Americans.

Russian state-sponsored attackers are alleged to have been behind the recent attacks on five US banks, while Russian hackers without state support were alleged in August to be behind an attack which may be the largest data breach ever.

Russia has also moved in August to carefully control public wi-fi access, as part of a broader campaign to control free speech and internet communication. GigaOM also reports that Russian intelligence services are touting Russian “certified encryption algorithms,” which would surely provide at least the potential for state spying against citizens.

The extent to which US government data protectionism concerns are about the organic development of the internet, as opposed to Russian hacking and intelligence concerns, is open to debate, considering positions like that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler took on net neutrality.

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