Google’s alleged tie-up with NSA raises concerns

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Google has declined comment on a Washington Post report that it has asked the National Security Agency to help track down the cyberattackers who recently breached its databases.

Reporter Ellen Nakashima’s front page story on Thursday rekindled concerns about corporations collaborating with government sleuth agencies. You might recall the alarm raised by privacy and civil liberties advocates in 2006 after a USA TODAY investigation revealed how the NSA secretly analyzed phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

At the time, public backlash was directed mainly at telecom giants AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth for so readily giving up their customers’ private phone records to a government agency.

In a similar vein, Google, the world’s dominant search service, amasses data on the surfing habits of most Internet users, and stores vast amounts of sensitive data belonging to users of its popular Gmail and Google Apps online services, says Amrit Williams, CTO of security firm Big Fix. Because the NSA is an “opaque intelligence organization . . .the potential for abuse of private information at the intelligence or government level is very high,” he says…

That’s possible – perhaps, likely; but, it’s an unsound logical statement. It’s opinion.

The cyberattackers who breached Google’s network, and some 30 other tech, financial and media corporations, used conventional messaging trickery and infection methods. And since top-notch cyber forensics investigators and state-of-the-art network defense systems are readily available on the commercial market, it’s not clear why Google might seek the NSA’s assistance, says Jody Westby.

Companies don’t usually run and ask the government to get involved in their business,” she says. “These attacks may be more sophisticated than we think…”

A Google spokesperson pointed to the company’s Jan. 12 public statement about cyberattacks and censorship in China and declined any further comment.

Turning to the NSA raises a whole boatload of questions. Most of which are worthless because they’re almost exclusively based on conjecture or prejudice.

They may be the “leading experts” – but, as Jody Westby says in her article, everything revealed about the attacks, so far, doesn’t indicate the need for NSA-level horsepower. And the politics of working with the NSA really are a factor worth considering – beyond gee-whiz gadgetry.

In the world of American spies, the FBI are conservatives, the CIA are liberals – and the NSA are fascists. That’s opinion, too!

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