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Defending Digital Globalization

Let the Data Flow

A construction worker uses a laptop inside his dormitory in Hefei, China, August 2014. Jianan Yu / Reuters

Over the last 25 years, the Internet has become a conduit for trillions of dollars in commerce, transforming industries, national economies, and the nature of globalization itself. Today, as global trade in goods and services has plateaued and global financial flows have declined dramatically, cross-border data flows are exploding in volume. Data flows in and out of the United States alone are estimated at 80 terabytes per minute—eight times the size of the entire print content of the Library of Congress. Since 2005, they have increased by a factor of 80, from just 5 terabits per second to an estimated 400 per second.

International data flows take many forms. Individuals generate them through e-mails, Skype calls, e-commerce transactions, social media posts, and Internet searches, as well as through the consumption of digital goods from around the world. By 2020, consumers are expected to spend $1 trillion on cross-border e-commerce. But these flows are more than just consumer

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