NSA spying: Secret tap into Google, Yahoo info; Google headache in Brazil

Another day, another doozy of a revelation about NSA spying from the Edward Snowden leaks. This time, it involves Google, Yahoo, the cloud and a program called “Muscular.”

The NSA is secretly intercepting Google and Yahoo data as it passes through servers located outside the United States — all the better to bypass U.S. laws and restrictions with, my dear — the Washington Post reports. Both Google and Yahoo deny knowledge of this latest revelation, which is likely to be collecting Americans’ data as well as that of foreigners. NSA Director Keith Alexander told Bloomberg TV’s Trish Regan today that the report is “spurious” and that the companies are “compelled to work with us.”

According to the leaked documents, which include a hand-drawn diagram, the information is collected as it passes through the companies’ private clouds and makes its way to the public Internet. The information, which includes metadata (participants, date and time of a communication) as well as text and video content, is reportedly not encrypted.

Although Google recently said it was stepping up efforts to expand encryption to its many services, this is yet another reason for users to doubt the security of the data they entrust to giant tech companies — and the cloud.

Google, Yahoo and others have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to disclose more about NSA data collection from the companies. Before the revelation about Muscular, another surveillance program called Prism was found to be collecting the online communications of users of services offered by Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other tech companies. But again: The Muscular program means the NSA can tap into some Google and Yahoo user data without court approval.

In other news about how the NSA’s mass surveillance programs are affecting tech companies, Brazil is pushing Google to store information about its Brazilian users in local data servers. The proposal comes via a bill that’s scheduled to be considered by legislators next week, according to Bloomberg. The report says Google has complained that the requirement would be complicated to carry out in one of the world’s biggest market for Internet users. Google reportedly is the most visited website in Brazil.


Photo: Leaked documents show that information secretly siphoned from Google and Yahoo ends up at data centers at the National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.  (Associated Press archives)

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4265 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com