Best Argument: No
Audience Favored: Yes (74%)
More risks than rewards
To sum up then the arguments against taking the NSA into account in your cloud activities are simple and few.
There's nothing you can do about it anyway so why worry?
The NSA's activities are necessary to protect Americans against terrorism.
The economic advantages of cloud services are too great to ignore despite the security risks.
Against that I argue that the unprecedented surveillance by the NSA is dangerous to the health and security of the Internet; unnecessary to protect Americans against terrorism; and should be addressed by both our elected representatives and major cloud service providers to make the Internet more secure and to increase the transparency of intelligence activities.
The cloud is an important and revolutionary infrastructure. If the United States is to maintain technology leadership we need to be able to assure the entire world that their data and secrets are safe with American technology providers.
Worry about criminals first, NSA after
I have attempted, in this debate, to avoid emotional arguments or assertions of moral authority. If you are making security decisions for a business you really need to do the same or you are not serving your company's interests.
The core of my argument here is that there is nothing about what the NSA has done or is accused of doing which gives reason to take measures that you shouldn't be taking anyway. I'll go a step further here: The NSA is almost certainly uninterested in your cloud data, but there is a large population of criminals who might be. You need to protect your data against them, and that means taking pretty much all the measures you could to impede the NSA. Ergo: Don't worry about the NSA. It accomplishes nothing and confuses the issue. They are just another potential attacker, albeit a highly-sophisticated and heavily-resourced one.
Great debate: More action wins
This was an exceptional debate and I was proud to be able to elicit such excellent responses from both Robin and Larry. I approached judging this debate based on the merits of each question.
For each question, the individual answers Robin and Larry gave were each judged on their own merit, and each debater was awarded up to five points. Also, each question was judged based on which debater gave the better answer and balanced the issues of economics and security. For this part of the metric, the debaters split five points, with one debater always being awarded more points than the other.
As I reviewed the answers, I was struck by the differences in style of these two experts. Robin often answered with a more global and ideological perspective and while Larry often gave the more practical answers.
I found Robin's answers generally more inspiring and representative of the way I'd like to see us function as a nation and a society. I found Larry's answers more directly actionable.
In the end, that's what proved to decide our winner. The debate is entitled, "Should NSA surveillance influence your business cloud buying decisions?" and, at the end, our debaters really needed to provide answers that IT managers and CXOs could take to their management and stockholders.
Larry met that responsibility better, and scored 69 points to Robin's 62. Therefore Larry is the winner of this week's Great Debate.
That said, if they agree to run in 2016, I'd rather vote for Harris for President or Seltzer for President than any of the crop of jokers we're likely to be fielding from either of the parties. I'm all for the Seltzer/Harris or Harris/Seltzer ticket!