Tech companies upset about NSA hacking and encryption breaks

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It’s been pretty obvious that the big telcos, AT&T and Verizon, have been working closely with the feds on all of the various surveillance operations. The big question, however, has been how closely the big tech companies have been involved — with most of them issuing pretty strong denials, and some of the early reports of their involvement not standing up to much scrutiny. Late on Friday, reports came out that Google has actually been scrambling to encrypt the information that flows between its data centers to protect that particular attack vector from the feds:

Google is racing to encrypt the torrents of information that flow among its data centers around the world in a bid to thwart snooping by the NSA and the intelligence agencies of foreign governments, company officials said Friday.

The move by Google is among the most concrete signs yet that recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance efforts have provoked significant backlash within an American technology industry that U.S. government officials long courted as a potential partner in spying programs.

Google’s encryption initiative, initially approved last year, was accelerated in June as the tech giant struggled to guard its reputation as a reliable steward of user information…

That doesn’t exactly sound like a willing partner in all of this. Still, part of the problem is that without any real transparency as to what the NSA is getting from companies, there are plenty of people who simply won’t trust statements like this. Furthermore, the fact that last week’s leaks revealed that the NSA actively recruits employees within companies to sabotage their security, suddenly it seems like even if some companies have the best of intentions, they now need to be on the alert for moles from the government within their companies. This is, frankly, insane. It’s the kind of thing that wasn’t supposed to happen in the US.

Indeed, both Microsoft and Yahoo have now spoken out about the revelations:

Microsoft said it had “significant concerns” about reports that the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, had succeeded in cracking most of the codes that protect the privacy of internet users. Yahoo said it feared “substantial potential for abuse”.

All of these responses still feel a lot weaker than they need to be, even recognizing that there may be gag orders involved. As we’ve said before, the potential downside for the US tech industry is huge, and they need to be doing more to stand up to the NSA, and that includes fighting back against these efforts and doing everything they can to reveal what they’ve been asked to do over the years.

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