Google ‘outraged’ at NSA interception claims
Tech company angry at interception of private fiber networks and seeks reform
An illustration picture shows the logos of Google and Yahoo connected with LAN cables. Photograph: Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters
Tech companies Google and Yahoo reacted angrily to a report on yesterday that the National Security Agency has secretly intercepted the main communication links that carry their users’ data around the world.
The NSA and its British counterpart have apparently tapped the fiber-optic cables connecting Google’s and Yahoo’s overseas servers and are copying vast amounts of email and other information, according to accounts of documents leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The story is likely to put further strain on the already difficult relations between the tech firms and Washington. The internet giants are furious about the damage done to their reputation in the wake of Snowden’s revelations.
In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company was “outraged” by the latest revelations.
“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide,” he said.
“We do not provide any government, including the US government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform.”
Yahoo said: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centres, and we have not given access to our data centres to the NSA or to any other government agency.”
In partnership with the British agency known as Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the NSA has apparently taken advantage of the vast amounts of data stored in and travelling among global data centres, which run all modern online computing, according to a report yesterday by The Washington Post.
NSA collection activities abroad face fewer legal restrictions and less oversight than its actions in the United States.
In a statement, the NSA did not directly address the claim that it had penetrated the companies’ overseas data links. But it emphasised that it was focused on “foreign” intelligence collection - not domestic - and pushed back against the notion that it was collecting abroad to “get around” legal limits imposed by domestic surveillance laws. It also said it was “not true” that it collects “vast quantities” of Americans’ data using that method.
Companies like Google that operate internet services - including email, online document and photo storage and search queries - send huge amounts of data through fiber-optic lines between their data centres around the world.
Those data centres are kept highly secure using heat-sensitive cameras and biometric authentication, and companies believed the data flowing among centres was secure.