Google
Revelations of mass surveillance threaten to "break the internet", according to Google's chairman.Reuters

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has said that the fallout from the NSA surveillance revelations could be so severe that it will eventually "break the internet".

Speaking on Wednesday at a hearing in Palo Alto, California, alongside other Silicon Valley heavyweights, Schmidt criticised the practises of intelligence agencies implicated in the spying scandal brought about by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"The impact is severe, and it is getting worse," Schmidt said. "The simplest outcome is that we are going to end up breaking the internet."

The hearing comes ahead of a potential Congressional vote that could put an end to the mass data collection carried out by the NSA.

The USA Freedom Act, a bi-partisan bill introduced in the wake of the NSA revelations last year, has the support of several prominent US Senators, including Senator Ron Wyden who led the panel discussion.

Wyden first warned about questionable NSA surveillance tactics in 2011.

"In 2011, on the floor of the United Sates Senate, I warned that people were going to be stunned and angry when they found out how the US government has been secretly applying its surveillance authority," Wyden said. "And it turned out I was right about that."

It is feared by tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Google that countries weary of US surveillance will now put in place measures to make sure that any data collected by such companies is stored in the country it is collected in.

The practice of "data localisation", already being considered by Brazil, India and Germany, would force US tech companies to reorganise their infrastructure at huge costs.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, also present at the hearing, said: "The internet is a medium without borders, and the notion you'd have to place data and data centres used to serve particular countries within the region is fundamentally at odds with the way the internet is architected."