Google is understandably upset with the NSA
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has reason to be angry. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on Google and Yahoo servers without telling the Internet giants. Schmidt expressed his disappointment in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
According to Schmidt, the newly-revealed snooping "just doesn't pass the smell test."
"It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true," said Schmidt. "The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment, to pursue its mission and potentially violate people's privacy; it's not OK. It's just not okay...it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."
In Schmidt's view, the NSA has gone overboard. "The NSA allegedly collected the phone records of 320 million people in order to identify roughly 300 people who might be a risk. It's just bad public policy…and perhaps illegal." He admits that "There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don't have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them."
The government, not surprisingly, doesn't agree. In a statement that the NSA issued last week, the organization promised that it "conducts all of its activities in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies—and assertions to the contrary do a grave disservice to the nation, its allies and partners, and the men and women who make up the National Security Agency."
Despite these claims, an audit released in August disclosed that the organization broke the law nearly 3,000 times in 2011 and 2012.
Nevertheless , NSA Director General Keith Alexander has denied the allegations, initially made by whistleblower Edward Snowden. "I can tell you factually we do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers." Last week's allegations did not claim that the NSA accessed the servers, but the links between the servers and the open Internet.
Schmidt's objections aside, Google doesn't have a sterling reputation when it comes to privacy, either. Google knowingly took part in the NSA's PRISM program, which collected information on American's phone calls and email. The company has long hunted for keywords in Gmail subscribers' email to direct advertising their way. And last month, the search giant changed its terms of service to allow it to use your name and photo in advertising. One could reasonably describe Google's business model as giving you free services so they could learn more about you.
Schmidt, and Google have good reason to be angry with NSA, even if their own hands aren't entirely clean in this matter. The rest of us are left with a general wariness about what Google knows about us, what the government knows about us, and how those two floods of information intersect.