Was China An Excuse For GOOG + NSA Collaboration?
Take a look at this:
- Google has too much information on US citizens.
- The National Security Agency (NSA) has a history of illegally spying on US citizens.
Yet Google is negotiating with the NSA to help it repel attacks by spies allegedly representing the Chinese government. [Google to enlist NSA to help it ward off cyberattacks - washingtonpost.com]
Yesterday the ACLU launched a campaign encouraging people to protest the alliance.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which today celebrates its 20th Anniversary, has also been a critic of the NSA and has filed a suit to stop NSA surveillance of US citizens. This surveillance has taken place in San Francisco, very close to Google headquarters in Mountain View.
Jewel v. NSA is aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.
It's strange that Google would make a principled stand and pull out of China because of human rights, yet then turn around and talk to the NSA about helping it beef up its security. Whose bright idea was that? Google has loads of really smart engineers, why does it need the NSA?
Also, since the negotiations are still taking place, Google must have some problems with the NSA terms of cooperation.
Is China just an excuse to justify NSA involvement with Google?
It would have been easy for the NSA to make it look like Chinese agents of the government had breached Google's security. The Chinese government denies that it was responsible.
The ACLU puts it well:
If companies like Google think they need the government's help to secure their networks, then a civilian agency needs to step up to the task. Cybersecurity for the American people should not be handed over to a military spy agency, one that is insulated from public oversight and has a history of secretly exploiting vulnerabilities, rather than fixing them.
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Privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the National Security Agency (NSA) asking for details on the agency's purported partnership with Google Inc. on cybersecurity issues.
In a separate action that was also taken today, EPIC filed a lawsuit against the NSA and the National Security Council, seeking more information on the NSA's authority over the security of U.S. computer networks.
UPDATE: The EFF is appealing its case against the NSA. News release January 21, 2010:
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker held that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a "particularized injury" but instead a "generalized grievance" because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service.
"The alarming upshot of the court's decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston.