I will reduce using US based services. Guess why.

I always was aware that the NSA does some spying even at friends, and I already wrote about serving company data to the NSA on a silver plate when using cloud services years ago. And so far I thought “that’s the world how it is, if a company uses cloud stuff, they should know the risk, but at least my private stuff is save”.

But I have to admit that I didn’t thought that the US does that much spying on all of us. That users who are running a TOR node gets on black lists. That even the german government (and most probably other european governments as well) are infiltrated by US spies.

I mean, everyone knows that there are spies from other, non-allied countries. But being a friend means trusting each other, doesn’t it? There are so many real threats in the world out there, why wasting resources with spying friends?

I know that there are many people in the US who are embarrassed about their government and intelligence apparatus. But in more than a year there is no sign that any official authority understands why more and more people in Europe are getting mad about the US.

And that’s a pity. Because the US and Europe, and US and Germany in particular, are friends and should continue to be friends. But all that spying stuff simply means: the authorities in the US do not trust us. They do not see us as friends. They see us as targets. They get company secrets from us to give US companies advantage. They get government secrets from us to get an advantage in negotiations.

People in US intelligence say we are naive. That may be their outlook to the world. But I simply think that friends should work together, not against each other.

And since money is the best way to make a statement, I will cancel using services from US companies as much as I can. Since there are (european) alternatives to Google, Dropbox and so on, that’s relatively easy.

Do you see? Betraying friendship between countries lead to scattered regionalism. It’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

And most probably I just got on some NSA black list right now just because I wrote this blog posting. That’s frightening, isn’t it?


9 thoughts on “I will reduce using US based services. Guess why.

  1. Hi Julian,

    I cancelled my contract with Prominic (which does hosting for Domino, and does it very well, btw) exactly because of these concerns. Any US-based company is forced to give any information to the government (thanks to the horrible, horrible Patriot Acts I and II) and is also forced not to say anything. Even if your data is in an european datacentre, that does not deter the US from making a claim to the data:


    The ACLU, bless their hearts, are campaigning against this, have a look:


    Microsoft is lobbying hard with the US government at the moment exactly because these laws are killing their international cloud business.

    IMHO The US are making really bad decisions at the moment – many laws are shockingly extraterritorial:

    – the spying with the Patriot Acts
    – the US sanctions laws which led to the fining of BNP Paribas (anytime one does a transaction in US dollars, these need to be cleared by a US Bank, which makes this transaction a ‘US thing’ – scary no?)
    – For americans abroad (in fact, ‘US persons’ which also includes green-card carriers) are taxed twice, once in their host country and once in the US. American citizens must fill in very complicated forms for the Internal Revenue Service, and any financial institution must provide all the information, also in a complicated way, to the IRS (see FATCA). This has caused many banks here in Switzerland (except for the really big ones) to stop their relationships with ‘US Persons’, and there are now many expats here who have been thrown out of their bank. The amount of extra work means that people are not employing US expats here anymore. How this can be good for the US is a wonder.

    Germany unfortunately missed a golden opportunity to make a secure mail system with De-Mail, but they didn’t want to (the german spies didn’t want to). Now you have a watered-down system which only guarantees authentication, not security from prying eyes.

    As a last point, stopping having your data on US servers will not stop the traffic snooping.


    small grammar mistake:
    But I have to admit that I didn’t think

    BTW, What’s your alternative to dropbox and google/gmail?

    • I’m very much aware that having data in european data center does not mean the US services have no access to the data anymore. The only way to make it harder for them is to use strong encryption.

      My point is not to go against the NSA, but to let US companies loose money because non-US customers are not trusting them anymore. Only if enough US companies are telling their government that they loose money the government may start to change things, if they are strong enough to fight the intelligence apparatus in the first place.

      Dropbox, Google et. al. do not care if one single person like me abandons them, but I assume that more and more people are acting like me, and and some point, US companies do have a problem. It’s like Microsoft fearing for their cloud offerings as you wrote.

      As I wrote, it’s a pity. I think in the world as it is today it’s a good idea to have friends, even for a global power like the USA. Unfortunately, the authorities in the US seem to think another way, since everything they do aims to get rid of the last friends they have. I cannot see why living in a complicated world without any friends should be a good idea.

      And really, if US intelligence wants to know something about our government, they can schedule lunch with appropriate german politicians or intelligence people and simply *ask* them.

      The more I think about that matter, the lesser gets my understanding. But in the end, I’m only a small person trying to make a good living. Nevertheless, I can show that I don’t like how US authorities (not the people) act, and exactly that is what I’m doing. And the more people do that like me, the more might change.

      As Dropbox alternative I’m using my own NAS (Synology), which has cloud-like features and Strato, a german vendor: http://www.strato.de/online-speicher/?partner=AFFILINET#features

      Google search is replaced so far by startpage.com, which uses the Google index, but does not give my data to Google. I’m evaluating other alternatives at the moment.

      I’m looking for alternatives for Google Mail. I didn’t use Facebook for months, so I can remove my Facebook account easily.

      I will continue to use Apple services for the time being, but only for non critical stuff like music. I do not put photos into the iCloud, and I do not put office documents to iCloud either.
      Moving my website and other web services from the current US based vendor to some other will take time, but I will do that, too.

  2. Anyone know of a euro replacement of Prominic?

    Any thoughtrs on a euro version of yellowbleed and greenhouse?

  3. Why don’t you add Appcelerator, PlanetLotus, Microsoft, IBM< Apple and all of the other companies you use to this list?

    • That’s why I wrote about reducing US services, not cancelling all and everything. It’s about where I put my money and my data, not about being fanatical.

    • Bruce,

      Julian is not calling for a boycott on US products or US companies, as far as I can see. His post is about privacy, and about the fact that US law gives unprecedented leeway to their intelligence community to completely legally spy on everything. He’s not saying ‘Google is evil, Microsoft is evil’, he’s saying – ‘My data is not private when it’s on an US server’.

      There is always going to be a trade-off between privacy and security, and the point at which this trade-off is made will differ from country to country. At the moment, because of the Patriot acts, the US balance is clearly on the side of security at the detriment of privacy. Here in Europe the balance to be set is closer to privacy than to security. There are cultural aspects to this; Germany has suffered under systemic spying, not only by the Nazis but also until very recently by the East German government.

      For liberals such as myself, putting security above privacy is very questionable, and arguably the founding fathers of the US saw this as a danger as well. I quote the fourth amendment:

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      I sincerely hope that the balance will shift back to privacy and civil rights. Either through internal political pressure within the US (see my reference to the ACLU), or through common business sense. None of my clients here want to have their data in an US-based server.

      US companies are aware that this is bad for their business:

      The Patriot act was passed in a hurry, was supposed to be only temporary, and was done at a time in which the US felt particularly vulnerable. I finish this post with another quote:

      “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

  4. We still miss you Andrew. 😉 However, we understand your concerns and we’re frustrated by the situation as well.

    Gregory Engels is a fellow Penumbra member with us (http://www.penumbra.org), and I *think* he’s still doing hosting. If anyone needs to be put in contact with him, let me know.

    – Jon

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