Is Google Sincere About Not Helping the NSA?
Google has apparently taken measures that make it much more difficult for the NSA to tap into the vast flow of information between Google’s data centers. The company began encrypting its data which, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was in response to the NSA programs designed to allow the collection of user data. The program most affected is called MUSCULAR, which was designed to grab data in transit between overseas data centers and data centers in the US operated by Google and Internet giant Yahoo.
There is more than one caveat to this seemingly good news. One, Google and other Internet businesses have historically been against measures that could increase user privacy, favoring self-regulation that, conveniently enough, allows them to collect vast amounts of user data that can be used for marketing. Two, Google could very well be subject to the whims of secret courts acting at the behest of the NSA, effectively preventing the company from being able to let users know what is actually going on in terms of data collection at their sites.
Not a Great History
Before the NSA data collection scandal came to light, it was already common for Internet companies to fight against tighter restrictions on data gathering. There is a long list of bills that have been halted before they could be passed by Congress, many of which were actively lobbied against by Internet giants and their lobbying groups. Bills that would have specified privacy rights for users have been quashed. Bills that would have prevented Internet companies from tracking users online have been quashed.
In some regards, the objections that Google is raising to government snooping seem to have less to do with the snooping itself and whether it’s being done by a government, justified by national security, or being done by a company, justified by increasing profits.
Google may not want the government—at least judging by what they’re doing—to get at your data, but they certainly collect a lot of it themselves.
Federal appeals courts have recently held that the NSA can withhold information from the public in regards to its collection of data from Google. Google has had conflicts with intelligence agencies before, most famously centering on those agencies collecting data from human rights activists in China via Gmail accounts.
Given the current situation, it’s difficult to tell whether Google is sincere. It clearly has objections to the government tapping its data but, on the other hand, the company has certainly been happy to run roughshod over the privacy interests of its users in the pursuit of a few more bucks, as well.