NSA spying, as revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has a number of countries scrambling to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from U.S. and British security services, experts and academics said.
Such moves to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the United States are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the Internet works, with the possibility of hindering economic growth, they said.
Following reports on the scale of U.S. surveillance, Brazil's government has announced plans to promote its own networking technology, encourage regional internet traffic to be routed locally and set up a secure national email service.
"States may have few other options than to follow in Brazil's path," Ian Brown from the Oxford Internet Institute told The Guardian. "This would be expensive, and likely to reduce the rapid rate of innovation that has driven the development of the Internet to date ... But if states cannot trust that their citizens' personal data -- as well as sensitive commercial and government information -- will not otherwise be swept up in giant surveillance operations, this may be a price they are willing to pay."
Revelations of U.S. spying were pushing the Internet toward a tipping point that could hugely affect how online communications work, one analyst said.
"We are certainly getting pushed towards this cliff and it is a cliff we do not want to go over because if we go over it, I don't see how we stop," said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington. "It is like a run on the bank -- the system we have now works unless everyone decides it doesn't work, then the whole thing collapses."