Senators, Google worry about divided Internet after NSA leaks

U.S. Internet companies are concerned about proposals from other countries that would place national boundaries on the Internet, senators and a Google representative said Wednesday.

Fueled by concerns about U.S. surveillance, some countries are considering controlling the Internet within their borders. 

These proposals would harm the global Internet and U.S. Internet companies, Google’s Director of Information Security and Law Enforcement Richard Salgado told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy Wednesday.

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“The disclosures that we’ve seen … have really great potential for doing serious damage to the competitiveness of these American companies,” Salgado said.

Companies like Google “have already seen impacts on the businesses," he said.

The free flow of data across international borders has “been necessary for [the] growth” of Internet companies, subcommittee ranking member Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said.

“Companies that normally compete with each other, are working together on this,” subcommittee Chairman Al Franken (D-Minn.) said, referring to joint efforts from companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft to increase transparency around surveillance.

Internet companies need to be able to report on the surveillance requests they receive and comply with so that users know that government surveillance is “done under law, rule bound, narrowly tailored,” he said.

“It’s very important that the users of our services understand that we’re stewards of their data.”

Salgado warned that these international boundaries would lead to a “Splinternet” if surveillance concerns aren’t “addressed correctly.”

Wednesday’s hearing focused on Franken’s Surveillance Transparency Act, which would allow companies to publish more detailed information on the scope of government requests for user data they receive.