The company once known for its "don't be evil" motto is now in bed with the spy agency known for the mass surveillance of American citizens.
The National Security Agency is widely understood to have the government's biggest and smartest collection of geeks — the guys that are more skilled at network warfare than just about anyone on the planet. So, in a sense, it's only natural that Google would turn to the NSA after the company was hit by an ultrasophisticated hack attack. After all, the military has basically done the same thing, putting the NSA in charge of its new "Cyber Command." The Department of Homeland Security is leaning heavily on the NSA to secure .gov networks.
But there's a problem. The NSA and its predecessors also have a long history of spying on huge numbers of people, both at home and abroad. During the Cold War, the agency worked with companies like Western Union to intercept and read millions of telegrams. During the war on terror years, the NSA teamed up with the telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on customers’ phone calls and internet traffic right from the telcos’ switching stations. And even after the agency pledged to clean up its act — and was given wide new latitude to spy on whom they liked – the NSA was still caught "overcollecting" on U.S. citizens. According to The New York Times, the agency even "tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant."
All of which makes the NSA a particularly untrustworthy partner for a company that is almost wholly reliant on its customers' trust and goodwill. We all know that Google automatically reads our Gmail and scans our Google Calendars and dives into our Google searches, all in an attempt to put the most relevant ads in front of us. But we've tolerated the automated intrusions, because Google's products are so good, and we believed that the company was sincere in its "don't be evil" mantra.
I disagree that we've tolerated this because we "believed" in Google. We tolerate it because, living in a surveillance society, we've become numb and inured to our lack of privacy, and feel helpless to do anything about it.
The ACLU is helping to fight back.
...Google — the world's largest Internet search company — is negotiating an information-sharing agreement with the National Security Agency (NSA) — the world’s largest network for routine, mass communications surveillance.
The partnership is supposed to help protect Google's networks, but the ramifications of companies like Google working with the NSA are frightening.
The NSA — a component of the Department of Defense — is an intelligence collection agency with few effective checks against abuse, and no public oversight of its activities. The NSA sucks up the equivalent of the contents of the Library of Congress every six to eight hours, every single day. In the last decade, the NSA’s dragnet, suspicionless surveillance has targeted everyday Americans, in violation of the law and the Constitution. (To lean more about NSA spying, download our fact sheet on “America’s Surveillance Society”).
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.
Concerned? You can take action today by sending a letter to Google, letting them know that you object to such a deal and value your privacy online.
This "partnership" is very disturbing. The very least we can do is let Google know.
For more about how large telecom companies helped the US spy on citizens, read an excellent interview with AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein, and more details from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.