New NSA spying revelations are ramping up the intensity of the spy debate, and have angered quite a few people in high places. One of them is the CEO of Google, who recently went on record to say that the NSA spying on Google’s datacenters is “outrageous”.
Perhaps I should back up a bit.
The outrage started when new leaks from Edward Snowden alleged that the NSA found a way to suck up large amounts of data moving between the datacenters of Google and Yahoo!. Where the outrage came from (beyond the obvious lack of transparency), is that the slides that were leaked point to the fact that the NSA may have actually “broke in” to Google servers.
The slide below reveals proprietary Google code. This is unpublicized code that is used internally by Google to communicate between servers.
This is an unprecedented move by the NSA, and a glaring breach of trust — not to mention illegal. According to Google, this has to be an unauthorized breach; they were never served a warrant. If in fact the latest leaks are true, the NSA breached Google’s systems, much like an attacker would. If this was a regular “hack”, it would be referred to as an Advanced Persistent Threat.
So, how did they do it without a warrant?
There really isn’t a lot of information to go on due to how non-transparent the Administration has been when addressing issues of government snooping. The riding theory is that the breaches occur overseas, where the data is considered “in transit” — open to surveillance and not protected under the laws of the United States. The law is being interpreted to allow mass data collection, including information on Americans, because the data is collected outside U.S. soil.
With an ever digital society, and the world more connected than ever, this presents a whole new set of challenges for laws and governance.
How was the information collected?
There are quite a few theories, but overall they point to the NSA’s ability to somehow tap into Google’s internal network, most likely through physically tapping the fibers that transfer data across the world.
This infographic explains quite a bit:
What does it all mean?
It’s hard to say for sure. Since the Snowden leaks were first revealed the privacy debate has erupted around the world. We’re all beginning to see the bigger picture of how our data is used, and the implications of mass amounts of data being stored on each and every one of us.
Is it troubling? Absolutely.
If you are a student of history you will understand the underlying implications of any government operating in the ‘grey area’ of legality, and holding a concentration of power, with little oversight. As Lord Acton once said:
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
It’s time to weigh in on the debate. What do you think?
BTW: Here are the thoughts of one Google employee on Google+…