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Cyber diplomacy: Reputation remediation

Oct. 7, 2013 - 11:33AM   |  
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Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape.
Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File)
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The disclosure of U.S. cyber intelligence collection activities has created many problems for the country, with the biggest having to do with the international image of the NSA and the country.

A very interesting report emerged recently in the area of cyber diplomacy. Management consulting firm Ernst and Young conducted a survey of 400 executives of German companies. The results indicated that the United States was viewed as the second most threatening country when it comes to cyber threat (industrial espionage and data theft). We came in just behind China.

The number of executives feeling that way increased over 400 percent in the last year. This increase is presumably due to the Edward Snowden revelations. This general feeling of ill-will persists even after German officials publicly acknowledged their cooperation with the NSA and that they had created and implemented strict guidelines governing these activities. It should also be noted that Germany recently canceled a decades-old surveillance pact with the U.S. (and Britain) that dates back to the Cold War era.

It would be smart to assume that as additional information from Snowden is made public, the U.S. image and our international relationships will only degrade further.

To be sure, the United States passed on any relevant intelligence gathered under this and other programs with regard to any active threats that had targeted any of our ally countries. Due to the nature of that intelligence, most of it will not likely be publicly disclosed anytime soon.

The image of the U.S. that is available to the public is only the negative side. That creates a challenge for U.S. representatives involved in cyber diplomacy, and to some extent, our traditional forms of diplomacy as well. It will take years, if not decades, before the damage done to U.S. relationships by the Snowden disclosures is repaired and the trust of other countries is regained.

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