Spying news: Google's relationship with the NSA, plus 'Reset the Net' effort

Tech giants such as Google have strongly denied they were working with the NSA when the Edward Snowden leaks last year implied, among other things, that the spying agency had direct access to Internet users’ information. Does email correspondence, obtained by Al Jazeera America via a Freedom of Information Act request, between recently retired National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and top Google executives Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin, prove otherwise? No. But they raise questions about what the Al Jazeera report calls “a cozier working relationship” between the agency and tech companies than they have let on.

The email exchanges took place in 2012, a year before the Snowden leaks, and mentioned a government program called Enduring Security Framework. The ESF initiative involved the sharing of information between the government and tech companies, in the name of dealing with security issues such as cyberthreats from China.

An excerpt from an Alexander email, which discussed how the government and tech companies had worked together:

For example, over the last 18 months, we (primarily Intel, AMD [Advanced Micro Devices], HP [Hewlett-Packard], Dell and Microsoft on the industry side) completed an effort to secure the BIOS of enterprise platforms to address a threat in that area.

There’s not much else. Brin did write ahead of a January 2012 NSA meeting he attended: “Hi Keith, looking forward to seeing you next week.” The company told Al Jazeera that Brin was at the meeting because as part of its cybersecurity efforts, Google “always talk(s) to experts — including in the U.S. government — so we stay ahead of the game.”

An Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer told Al Jazeera, however, that he thought the government in turn was “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”

In other news related to government spying:

Tech companies (not the Internet giants) and civil liberties groups have declared June 5 the day to “Reset the Net.” The effort is powered by Reddit, Imgur, DuckDuckGo, CREDO Mobile, Greenpeace, Demand Progress and others. It calls for developers to create and add security features such as encryption to apps and websites, which would help make it harder for the government to carry on its mass surveillance. In an informational video, the organizers said they chose June 5 as the day of action and protest because it’s the anniversary of the first story that was published based on the Snowden leaks. (HT Wired)

 

Photo from AFP/Getty Images archives

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (3881 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 (at) bayareanewsgroup (dot-com).