Can Google Protect its Users while Working with the NSA?

Monday, February 08, 2010
(graphic: PC World)

Shaken by a massive cyberattack in December that originated in China, Google is turning to the government’s top electronic spying operation, the National Security Agency (NSA), for help. The Internet search-engine giant has declined to reveal the nature of its collaboration with the NSA, but officials familiar with the partnership say it will allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or exposing users’ searches or email accounts to the intelligence agency.

Despite those assurances, privacy advocates are worried about what will come out of Google working with the NSA, which carried out the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping that intercepted Americans personal communications. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the Google-NSA partnership “very problematic.” He told Computerworld: “We would like to see Google develop stronger security standards and safeguards for protecting themselves. But everyone knows the NSA has two missions. One is to ensure security and the other is to enable surveillance.”
Others in the tech world welcomed the collaboration. David Coursey of PC World
wrote: “We are at war and business data centers are the battlefield. It seems only natural that Google and the NSA should be working together. Who better to protect us? And we need to be able to play both defense and offense, something I wonder if we can do today.”
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair called the Chinese cyberattacks a “wake-up call” that may require collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors to combat future threats. The hacking targeted Google’s programming language, as well as electronic information from 30 other large tech, defense, energy, financial and media companies. Gmail accounts belonging to human rights activists in Europe, China and the United States were also compromised.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Google to Enlist NSA to Help It Ward Off Cyberattacks (by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post)
Google Taps NSA to Safeguard its Data (by Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld)
Google and the NSA: Necessary Allies (by David Coursey, PC World)


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