Infosec 2014: Europe has “completely failed” at producing web companies so cannot complain about US spying

By Peter Gothard
30 Apr 2014 View Comments
F-Secure analyst Mikko Hypponen

Europe has "completely failed in producing alternatives or competing services" to large US web firms, and so cannot complain about US government snooping on European business data stored in US clouds, F-Secure's chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, said today.

Speaking at London's Infosec conference, Hypponen suggested that rather than blaming the US and its government for global surveillance of American web servers, the European IT industry should be considering its own failings.

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"It's easy to blame the USA for treating the EU as a colony, and not respecting the privacy rights of us foreigners," said Hypponen.

"I've blamed the USA for their rude behaviour across the world [before], but now I'd like to point out the other side of the coin - which is, in many ways, [that] it's not actually just the United States misbehaving. Maybe the reasons behind this development are our own fault. These problems are a result of the fact that we Europeans have been unable to provide alternative services to the US services.

"The EU - Europe - has completely failed in producing alternatives or competing services," Hypponen said.

"This is the main reason why we, the foreigners, keep using US-based services, even though we know that they are under surveillance, and the United States government has a legal right to look at our files when we store them in the US cloud - even though we know they have a legal right to save our emails when we use US-based webmail.

"Why? Because we have no alternatives. And that is our own fault."

Hypponen lamented how, while the internet was "invented by the Americans", the web itself was "invented by Europeans - by us".

"Yet we have been unable to produce services," he said.

Hypponen asked the audience to try to think of five European web companies as big or successful as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon or Facebook, before declaring no match except "maybe Spotify". He then berated Europeans for selling out to Silicon Valley.

"When we have the rare European success stories, we end up selling them to the Americans," he said.

"And when we have the smart young European people who want to become entrepreneurs and become the next Google or start the next dotcoms, the very first thing they do is they move to Silicon Valley, and they start up there. So we can blame the Americans for watching the world, but we should do much better."

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