Silicon Valley scares Americans

But even at home, the tech community is hurting. According to a study by Harris Interactive last week, people are actually reducing their Internet usage because of the Edward Snowden revelations and general fears about privacy. The study found that 47% say they have changed their behavior online, and 26% say they’re doing less online shopping. Among younger users, aged 18 to 34, the online shopping number was 33%. The Wall Street Journal quotes Stephen Cobb of information security company ESET: “In the technology industry, companies are finding that the sales cycle is getting longer, as customers ask questions such as whether an Internet router is NSA proof. ‘People are asking questions they didn’t ask before. To be in this place now, given the history of this industry, is just amazing. There is a level of suspicion and confusion we haven’t had before.’ ”

“A level of suspicion and confusion we haven’t had before.” That’s right. And it’s made worse by the increasing politicization of Silicon Valley, and the transformation of its leaders from rebels into what Joel Kotkin calls “the new oligarchs,” people who once talked about technology as liberation, but who now seem more interested in using technology as an instrument of control. It’s not just NSA spying; it’s that the companies gather data on everyone, with comparatively little legal oversight.