SXSW Interactive 2015

Fighting surveillance can be good for business


The Snowden disclosures have been bad news for many US tech companies. As foreign customers seek to protect themselves and their data from the NSA, the losses to US companies may run into the billions. In particular, the cloud computing sector and ad supported companies whose business models depend upon data collection are most at risk.

It doesn't have to be this way. The Snowden stories don't have to be bad news. A handful of US tech companies have realized that privacy can be a competitive advantage, that building secure products designed to resist surveillance and government coercion can be good for business. For such companies, the combination of paranoid engineering and a brave legal team have enabled them to offer products that protect user data from many threats, including those hand-delivered by men and women in dark suits.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. How big of a threat is US and foreign government surveillance to my business?
  2. The FBI showed up at my office with a secret court order, telling me to change my code in order to enable covert surveillance of my users. What do I do?
  3. Fighting the government sounds expensive. How do I fight for my users without bankrupting the company?
  4. We're just a bunch of geeks, not lawyers. What can we do to make surveillance of our users more difficult?
  5. I've always wondered what it's like to get a visit from the FBI. Is it fun?



Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Meta Information:

  • Tags: surveillance
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Dual
  • Track: Privacy and Security
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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