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Foreign Tech Firms Seemingly Unfazed By NSA Surveillance Revelations

The National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md.

The National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md. // Patrick Semansky/AP File Photo

Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency don't appear to have discouraged most international customers from doing business with U.S. technology firms, a new survey suggests.

About 26 percent of foreign firms -- based in the Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe and Latin America -- said they stopped or reduced spending with U.S.-based firms for Internet-based services because of security concerns, according to a new survey from Forrester Research.

About 34 percent said these concerns were because of fears that the U.S. intelligence community might spy on them. The remainder cited other factors, including wanting to support businesses within their home countries and data sovereignty rules preventing them from storing data abroad.

The survey was administered over the phone and online between June and July 2014 to more than 3,000 businesses.

After Snowden’s revelation about NSA's "PRISM" data collection program in 2013, “there has been widespread speculation that the disclosure of U.S. spying would significantly harm U.S. cloud, hosting, and outsourcing businesses as international customers walked away from any firm within the NSA’s reach,” Forrester analyst Edward Ferrara, one of the survey's authors, wrote in a blog post. “It seems the international business was a lot more insulated from U.S. spying as compared to what was originally thought.”

On average, global respondents reported that 33 percent of their data wasn’t already stored in-house, meaning that even if they do pull back from U.S. firms, they would likely be transferring a small amount of data, the report said.

But more than half of respondents indicated they did not trust U.S.-based outsourcers to handle sensitive information, the report said. Only 8 percent said they would trust their company’s intellectual property with a U.S.-based outsourced company; 7 percent said they would share financial records and 4 percent said they would share patient information such as health records and related medical information.

Their concerns weren’t unique to the U.S. Forrester’s data showed that almost one-third of respondents were also concerned about spying from other countries, including their own.

Still, 90 percent of decision-makers surveyed said they had taken steps to encrypt their data, protecting it from government observation or intelligence gathering, the survey said.

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