Internet Giants Erect Barriers to Spy Agencies

Internet companies like Google and Facebook are working to keep governments and their spy agencies out of their servers after revelations that they had been invaded.

Comments: 186

  1. 'In the past, he said, “we have been very successful” in getting that data. But he acknowledged that for now, those days are over, and he predicted that “sooner or later there will be some intelligence failure and people will wonder why the intelligence agencies were not able to protect the nation.”

    Right, kind of like the intelligence failure which happened when G W Bush et al ignored warnings, on more than one occasion, that Al Qaeda was determined to strike the United States. Or how warnings about the individuals who initiated attacks on so many innocents at the Boston Marathon were dismissed as low priority and unimportant.

    I suggest that rather than trying to unearth every single kernel of information about every individual on the face of the earth, our intelligence agencies resort to good old fashioned police work, deduction, intuition and common sense.

  2. This talk about how we'll be sorry when we're attacked is typical of ends justify the means type reasoning. There is no end to this rabbit hole. There is no level of intrusiveness that wouldn't allow the government to say "it could help stop a terrorist attack".

    However, there is a solution. If you based your surveillance on ethical principles of good government and the protection of rights instead of hypotheticals that you use to justify everything, you might create a document that could give some guidance. Off the top of my head, I can think of one document that might work: the Constitution. It works because it is based on principles. And if a terrorist attack is successful because we followed the Constitution, I would still say that we are better off with the mayhem terrorists might create than the mayhem of an unrestrained government.

  3. What about the governments successful dismantling of all those plots to destroy that we don't know about. Maybe the plots that were successful were only a small percentage of all the plots against us. We always hear the BAD stuff in the news. The good stuff isn't newsworthy. The good stuff doesn't attract viewers.

  4. To Tim B's list I would add 'intelligence'.

  5. If they got the guy who knows the guy and feel they are covered. I don't think any security measure is going to be safe. You got to get rid of the access to phone records (meta-data) and the tools that enable this fast search of finding the guy to profile and leverage influence.

  6. If anyone seriously wants to start over, we had volunteers in Miami, setting up DNS records for the Freenet. Librarians take these things seriously, not VC.

    We did it once. Some of us remember how ...

  7. It's a nice claim, but it will not work. Trying to make any kind of barrier will simply prove ineffective.

    Most seem to forget, that NSA and OTHER agencieS have what could be referred to as *chip level access*. It is literally programmed into the chip. There is simply no way around it other than literally destroying the chip.

    Such devices/mechanisms have been manufactured into most every computer chip (from entry level to server level and beyond) since the late 90's

  8. This is one of the disinformation lines peddled by the NSA and its claque of supporters: "You can't stop the NSA spying on you anyway, so there's no point in trying".
    In fact, thanks to Snowden, we do know that there are limits to what the NSA can crack. Secure encryption tools are available to the public. Following security expert Bruce Schneier's blog gives good perspective on this.

  9. dog and pony show.

    google claims to erect barriers to spy agencies. and the spooks bemoaned the new lack of cooperation.

    nobody would ever know. unless there's another Edward Snowden.

  10. I won't believe a word of this until they try their damnedest to throw the corporate heads of Google in prison, as they would Snowden.

    A dog and pony show, indeed. One hand washes the other.

  11. Window dressing. These companies are/were equally complicit in providing data on demand. In any event, my money is still on the black budget at the NSA and others to effectively circumvent any "barriers" these companies erect.

  12. Agree, PR even. Two things: (a) All cough-up readily upon court order and (b) they have no control on user devices/access. Store and encrypt all you want but once the data is mirrored/accessed by user clients, it's open game.

    Google's getting a lot of cozy treatment. TMI and irrelevant: photo of server room and this: " laying its own fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans,". Spare us the infomercials please.

  13. The Affordable Care Act and repairing -- as far as possible -- the damage inflicted by Bush will mark Obama's achievements. The NSA scandal will be seen as an historic failure. American companies will increasingly be suspected of acting as agents of US intelligence. It will damage their overseas business. It will give governments the excuse to subsidize national champions and discriminate against US companies.

  14. It's about time! Wittingly or simply through wink-and-nod acquiescence, the tech giants have become far too intimate with Big Brother. It's far healthier for the Fourth Amendment, and for the Bill of Rights as a whole, that they be no cozier than distant, but certainly not kissing, cousins.

    Given that the arbitrary "war on terror" is open-ended by design, it's all the more important to heed Justice Brandeis' prophetic dissent from 86 years ago this week and remember that "the end justifies the means" is not the example that should be set by our government. And that includes the N.S.A.

  15. So Snowden was/ is possibly one of the most significant defenders of our Constitution ever. As much of a warrior protecting our "liberty" as any enlisted GI, if not more so. One year and all this. Imagine if it wasn't revealed.

  16. I do so genuinely hope this is true. It makes me glad to see the corps get busy with it! Give 'em hell!

  17. Any cracks that get sealed will be so they will have to be paid for their information.

  18. I just don't buy it. All these big name companies cooperated with the government to spy on Americans. They should've stood up to Obama and told him no, like the Lavabit gentleman did, but they decided money is more important to them than the constitution.

  19. You'll notice that Lavabit lost that fight and shut down.
    It's not a matter of profit but *existence*.

  20. Yes, rather than letting the Obama government get its grubby paws on all the private keys, Lavabit did shutdown. Lavabit also got bullied and cheated by the court system. However, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and all the others have far more legal and finacial resources than Lavabit and should've fought the government on this. Together, they would've won. Of course, they didn't, and all our data is in the hands of the government now.

  21. “Just as there are technological gaps, there are legal gaps...that leave a lot of gray area” [governing what companies could turn over.]

    Some of us like to think of these "gaps" as bulwarks against invasion of our privacy. Obviously we need stronger laws to protect us from domestic surveillance by the CIA, the NSA and the military intelligence arms.

    We do have to tolerate domestic operations by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury, and internal security operations within each branch of military service, but all the other agencies should not be conducting domestic operations, and our laws should make that explicit. Furthermore, the data gathered by Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury should not be freely exchanged with the other (non-domestic) intelligence operations, but transferred only with explicit approval of the DNI on a case-by-case basis.

    The collection of data of all domestic calls--whether merely transactions listings or all content--must be halted and be forbidden. The alternative is a dystopian police state, which will mean the dictatorship states will have won and succeeded in destroying our freedoms.

    Forcing our communications companies to make available all communications will destroy their international business, because citizens of other nations will rightfully not trust them.

  22. Are no other countries gathering the same information for their own security?

  23. A cynical perspective on the new-found corporate fetish for encryption might suggest a potential fly in the ointment. After all, Google and its ilk make money by data mining content: the consumer is their product. This suggests that genuine "perfect forward security", strong cryptography and other measures might be a little bit less secure than it might appear to be at first blush.

    A skeptic might use open-source programs (like GnuPG) to encrypt sensitive content. A skeptic might use Tor for internet browsing. A skeptic might wish to use "off the record" chat and avoid social media platforms such as Facebook which make no secret of their radical perspective on "privacy". A more credulous person would accept corporate representations on "security" at face value. A patriot would insist that their government change its policies with respect to mass surveillance.

  24. I, too, found this article interesting when for years Google, Facebook, etc have been mining and selling data about all of us to their own advantage...why the big uproar when the government takes advantage of it, too? Nothing online has ever been "private".

  25. This is exactly the problem, @kcomess: If by changing mass surveillance polices you mean that a patriot would reduce them, their are also those who believe that patriotism demands strengthening those surveillance policies. So you need to sort that out. What is it?

    Right, "being a little less secure than perfect" is always the case as there is no perfect security, even within a SCIF as we have recently discovered. In the end there are people and processes to deal with. What you need to understand is that these companies, as reported by Sanger and Perlroth, are moving to a *greater* degree of security. Who knows? The federal government, in its desire to collect information but also defend our networks against foreign attacks may have inadvertently made our networks stronger by forcing companies to up their security measures... against the best intelligence technology in the world.

  26. Now that is a good commentary!

  27. These companies may attempt to protect themselves from the government, but who is to protect us from the prying eyes of these companies as they collect data on individuals, which they sell for a price.

  28. Companies like G and FB have to pay their employees' salaries. They currently do that by selling personal data. If they moved to charging every user for the same services which are now free they'd have less incentive to sell personal data.

  29. Having grown up with the micro computer from 1980 in my professional career at a university, this article goes a long way to fill in many blanks for those of us who do not deal with the security topic closely. Last year, Rachel Madow showed a site at a facility where a room held mysterious gear which may have been part of this nefarious business. Security is essential but now seems to have passed the reasonable test.

  30. Eddie's revelations are old news. The minds and technology at work in the spy agencies have devised means of busting barriers before the barriers are even invented. Bet on it.

  31. That's Corporate America for you: as soon as these massive corporations see how their collision with the NSA will hurt their profit margins, they decide to do the right thing. Like everything else in America, it all comes down to money. Everything about this country is money, money, money. Nothing like the potential of losing money to convince Corporate America to do the right thing.

  32. At least profit is a consistent variable. Altruism has never been. Perhaps someday humans will discover something better. For now, return on investment is leading the charge.

  33. True, but the tendency of corporate leaders who are essentially gamblers and risk-takers is to risk great loss. How else to explain their resistance to doing what's needed to slow and reverse climate change? Rather than reallocate their investment capital from proven dangerous sources of energy to harmless ones, they choose to continue gambling with use of coal, petroleum, etc.

  34. So what? Do you have a better measuring stick that should be applied to allocate the resources of the world? Should we measure the well being of the poor by "happiness," or by how much money they have? If so, please don't complain that they have no money, for I will reply that all you can ever focus on is 'money, money, money," for they look plenty happy to me, sitting in their favelas on the hills of Rio, watching the beautiful sunrise, surf, and mountains.

    People here seem to have a problem with money only when other people have it or want it. When you want something, trust me, you'll be focusing on money, and will not be content with pablum and platitudes.

  35. In the past, he said, “we have been very successful” in getting that data. But he acknowledged that for now, those days are over, and he predicted that “sooner or later there will be some intelligence failure and people will wonder why the intelligence agencies were not able to protect the nation.”


    Frankly, nobody has done more damage to this country's security than its intelligence agencies, and an administration and lawmakers who failed in their oversight responsibilities and were generally little more than lap dogs.

    You want to understand why our relationships with other countries are strained over this issue, or why our companies are less competitive overseas? Don't look at Edward Snowden . . . look in the mirror.

  36. Give an example of how this country's intelligence agencies and Administration and lawmakers have failed in their oversight responsibilities and made this country less secure? Until you can be specific, your argument has no validity.

  37. Americans would do better to think deeply about how some super-dooper 007 like Hid Majesty's Secert Service type allo knowing and all powerful spy agency would have affected American power and longterm political goals. What if the Department of Naval Intelligence had succeeded in unraveling the Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor as well as, to attack Russia, Britain or CHina.
    The codes for the US Attack , broadcast in the clear giving permission to steam to targets and execute the plan, was "East wind , rain" to attack Pearl Harbor and Subic Bay.
    If the message had been "North wind, rain" it meant attack Russia; "South and West wind, rain" were for attacks against Britain and CHina.
    Had the US "intelligence" agencies correctly deciphered and prepared for the attack on Hawaii, the Japanese would have fallen into a trap or, at least, the US fleet would have survived in all it's WWI glory, ready to fight the last war, as the Japanese were becoming ever more puissant and capable of taking on US ships, one to one, and we had not yet developed Radar, or an all carrier task force plan in which battleships, and other surface tenders screened carriers, not the moving targets which Battlewagons had become.
    The loss of the Pacific fleet forced America to copy British technique using carriers to lead naval squadrons, as Britain had in the Med, for two years, by '41 and sinking the Bismarck-ultimate in battleships then .In hindsight; Some battles are worth losing. . .

  38. There are, though, numerous other avenues with the real potential to engender serious limits on the NSA’s surveillance powers, including the self-interested though genuine panic of the U.S. tech industry over how surveillance will impede their future business prospects, the efforts of other countries to undermine U.S. hegemony over the internet, the newfound emphasis on privacy protections from internet companies worldwide, and, most of all, the increasing use of encryption technology by users around the world that poses genuine obstacles to state surveillance.

  39. One might ask why these tech and telecom giants quietly cooperated with the U.S. spy agencies before Snowden's leaks. And it seems they are only making it more difficult now for the spy agencies because they don't lose international business. What about their customers' privacy rights--didn't that ever figure in the equation?

  40. Court system strongly favored government, that's why.

    Can't see legal reasoning justifying orders, so good luck undermining it.
    Can't contest anything involving FISC, since only the government is represented there.
    Can't disclose that you're subject to such orders, meaning that you can't really organize with other victims to fight.

    Also, difficult to beat the "if you've got nothing to hide, why fight it" political argument since the population largely was oblivious and didn't care. There's *some* awareness now and *some* possibility for non-trivial reform, although I still wouldn't bet on much progress here.

  41. It says something about the mindset of the leaders of the US high tech and telecommunication companies that so happily and gormlessly worked so long hand in hand with US intelligence that they never anticipated this type of blowback from international markets. This feeble back peddling looks a lot more like a series of desperate PR acts to protect access to foreign markets than any genuine concern with clients American or otherwise. I mean they didn't care before it hit their pocket book did they?

  42. They never cared before Moore's law made encrypt everything feasible.

  43. Who will erect barriers to protect the rest of us from the internet giants?

  44. Good point. I'm of the opinion these guys are actually protecting themselves from the NSA revealing their secrets on how these "internet giants" are messing around with our data.

  45. If you want to wait for someone else to protect you from your own decisions, you are already doomed. You need to do this for yourself. Stop using Google, MS, etc. It's easy to do. Use search engines like Duckduckgo, and avoid MS and Google browsers. There are alternatives.

  46. In tentative defense of our imperfect intelligence community, I do find it hard to understand how the looming spectre of Chinese and Russian cyber intelligence capabilities are so seemingly nonchalantly ignored in this debate. It's almost as if they represent no threat at all to our country, to our way of life, and to our security. It's almost as if we forget--utterly--that they do NOT, in fact, view us as friends, working partners, or even distant business colleagues, but that these regimes view the United States with sour venom and disdain--the utmost disdain. This means that they are ratcheting up their cyber intelligence gathering capabilities exponentially against our system.

    We would be very wise to never forget that every single company associated with IT in both Russia and China is absolutely required--in lieu of terrible and violent consequences--to hand over of every last byte of information that the regime would require. These regimes care nothing about privacy. They murder journalist, and bury truth, with impunity.

    Yet, our hallmark IT/internet companies cry foul when the NSA or other intelligence operations ask for data? Sure--take measures to shore up the greys. Change the rules. But to flat deny any access? This rigidly, in fact, is no humanitarian concern for personal privacy. The ultimate reason is money. They do not want to lose clients, simple as that.

    Even as the Russians and the Chinese surely view this as yet another battle won.

  47. There is no such thing as a vulnerability that can only be exploited by US intelligence but would be completely useless if noticed by Russian or Chinese intelligence.

    Weaknesses do not discriminate.

  48. But what is the alternative? Allowing them to use the precedent of sweeping NSA access to demand similar access from the same companies? That is what they are doing. It's hard to see how *that* makes us (the U.S.) any more secure, given that they are willing not only to read such information but to sell it or steal it or whatever. Google's solution (and everyone else will follow suit) is to do all encryption at user endpoints. That removes them from the problem and removes the problem from them. Gov'ts will have to focus on the endpoints to get access. If this is less favorable to intelligence gathering, it's certainly no less favorable than the old days when people talked to one another without mass gov't eavesdropping.

  49. Google protecting my privacy is like the fox guarding the hen house.

    No thanks, but I'll risk the intrusion of the American government over that of the profit-making corporations any day. At least with the government there are elections and the Freedom Of Information Act, as seriously imperfect as both are. There are no equivalents with the corps, for whom you are nothing but a marketable commodity. And, when it comes to security of information, Snowden notwithstanding, I have no doubt the government can do a much better job and has greater motivation to do such.

    In reality, "security and privacy" out of the mouths of tech corporations is like "fair and balanced" from Fox.

    In any case, lets stop pretending that the bad guys are less smart and less motivated than the good guys. Security will always be a moving target.

  50. Aren't you forgetting these things called "laws", created by the government you elect, that are meant to protect you from the predation of corporations? But if the government goes rogue, who protects you from it? What can corporations do you that governments can't ten, a hundred times worse? I'm no fan of corporations, mind you - in a very real sense, they already are the government. But at least in this sense they're doing the right thing. Bush let the beast out of its cage and Obama tut-tutted while feeding it raw steak. Now, finally, someone is working hard to put it back in. I'm not supposed to fear my own government - it's supposed to fear me, it's boss.

  51. Elections mean nothing to the permanent governmemt that staffs the agencies. A recent example is the VA which despite elections of presidents and appointments of new administrators has managed to provide terrible sevice for the last 60 years to veterans.

  52. As a Google software engineer, I was shocked and embarrassed to learn that Google's internal network traffic was not encrypted until recently. There's really no reason not to do it, and there's no reason to believe NSA would not try to attack this vulnerable underbelly. Attackers always go for the weakest link. Duh. Even children know this.

    I have been complaining for years about lack of client-side encryption support, the thing that Google just released, and which has commended by Snowden. The best way to fight a court order is to be unable to comply. This is what client-side encryption enables.

    The reason it wasn't done earlier is that it makes it impossible for Google to target ads to you in Gmail. But now that it has become clear that being vulnerable to goveremt dragnet is harmful to business, they are finally getting around to it.

    In Google's defense, I tend to believe their story: Google never willing handed over data, nor did they provide access to data. I believe every request for data was fought vigorously by Google's lawyers, but judicial the deck is stacked in favor of government agencies. For example, only the government can send lawyers to the FISA court. I believe the press has misrepresented this, or misinterpretted the information that Snowden leaked.

  53. You keep helping to protect Al Qaeda's Internet connections, okay? Millions of people around the world whose lives are at stake will surely appreciate your efforts to thwart the enemies of Al Qaeda.

  54. I'll keep helping Chinese dissidents work toward democracy. I'll keep helping Tunisians overthrow their autocratic governments. And I'll keep you safe when one day, you find yourself on the other side of the powers that be, despite your lack of historicity, especially pertaining to the Constitution.

    You speak of millions of people being impacted by the governments ability to surveil us. I couldn't agree more: it is an invasion of privacy on a global scale, and if you believe in the Constitution, you shouldn't stand for it. History is replete with examples of government invasion of private citizen's lives in the name of "national security". But the founding fathers, having lived through writs of assistance, among other grievances, believed it necessary that the Constitution include protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

    Their solution, which is codified by the Fourth Amendment, was to require government to demonstrate probable cause to a court, which has the prerogative to grant a warrant. The millions, indeed billions, of people who have been caught in the NSA's dragnet are under no suspicion whatsoever, narrowly missing the "probable cause" bar.

    Furthermore, despite Keith Hamilton's assertions, after reviewing the evidence, Obama's own hand-picked surveillance review panel found that mass surveillance played no role in stopping any attacks.

    Terrorists will never have the power to harm the Constitution. Only a docile populace has that power.

  55. Other than the one Google engineer in the UK on G+, which does not count, there has never been a full and frank technical and political statement from top Google leadership that this SSL layer was broken. Smiley faces are not technical proof.

  56. Thirty years after 1984, it is time to update the warning. George Orwell had it right, but Orwell had it wrong. Yes, surveillance will be pervasive, and content will be persistent, until altered by the retainer for the retainer's purpose. But Orwell wrote government as the perpetrator, with the presumed motivation of control. Today's view should identify corporations as the privacy invaders and would-be mind controllers. With profit as their motive, and no legal investigative tools (FOIA, Sunshine Laws) corporations invade our privacy, collect our data and meta-data, and sell to the highest bidder. Google and Facebook are the enemy as they track and store and sell.

  57. The information is actually valuable enough to keep to themselves.

    They wish to *use* it, not to sell it.

  58. Then don't use them. If they're the enemy, why fraternize with them? There are search alternatives to Google.

  59. Then let us all start paying for the services which G and FB provide. Decrease their incentive to sell our personal data.

  60. In the early 20th century, Henry Stimson opposed intelligence collection, saying "Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail." We surmounted the folly of that mindset when push came to war, but apparently we have to relearn our lesson. Today, electronic communication is where the threat information resides. Any future terrorist attack on the U.S. must be credited to the actions of Edward Snowden.

  61. Actually, you can thank the American creepy crawlies and their myopia for the very existence of terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.

  62. While you're at it, why not blame all the past attacks on him as well?

  63. And just as much, years or decades worth of highly improved Civil Liberties to soon be enjoyed every day by people nearly everywhere can be partially credited to Mr. Snowden.

  64. It's hard to believe any of this: Internet companies will refuse to give some customer information over to the government. How can anyone verify this? Example, the CIA says it won't use the cover of polio vaccine workers to locate the likes of Osama bin laden anymore. Ok, maybe so, but then they'll use journalists or nurses. A secretive spy organization says it will stop gathering information. Take their word for it? Not on your life.

  65. I think you're very, very far off base suggesting that journalists and nurses will be "used" by the CIA or NSA. These chosen professions are very much altruism-motivated.

  66. You honestly think they haven't been used by the CIA before now?

  67. There is also more than a hint of Kabuki Theatre emanating from these now very public tiffs between US hi tech and telecommunications companies and US intell. No use having a mole if everyone knows he's a mole.

  68. NSA is a blight on democracy; its place and role in USG is sanctioned at the top. Responsibility for the absolutist violation of civil liberties rests with Obama, who makes Joe McCarthy and all violators of the US Constitution look like amateurs. In clearest objective terms, surveillance of this magnitude is the hallmark of a Police State, in the US euphemistically called a National Security State, but in fact totalitarianism and fascism. Period.

    Nor can one place credence in the encryption wars. Technology companies have been notoriously complicit in allowing these abuses, and, until Snowden, and probably STILL, lack the courage--and want the profits that go with cooperation--to oppose the government. Rather than challenge the FISAC head-on, and expose--even at the cost of penalties--the system of national security letters, Microsoft, Google, etc. etc. have turned coward and proven disloyal to the American people.

    Until they tear apart this vicious system, demanding NSA be eliminated as a cancer on American institutions, they and their leaders deserve only contempt. As for Obama, Clapper, the whole bunch, let liberals hide their eyes--just as with drone assassinations, and international policies of confrontation with Russia and China, possibly leading to nuclear annihilation--and sleep the sleep of DENIAL that they are aiding and abetting fascism in America.

    Am I a communist? No, simply an upholder of privacy as sacred to US institutions.

  69. It's bipartisan. Conveniently forgetting or conveniently ignoring this all started under Bush who didn't even bother with covering-legislation 'til getting caught - illegally and unconstitutionally - spying on America back in 2006?

  70. • "... privacy as sacred to US institutions."
    And individuals, US and worldwide.

    • "...let liberals hide their eyes...."
    This is NOT a "liberal" vs. "conservative" issue. To make it partisan diminishes the very real threat and danger.

    The NSA, a unit to decipher coded communications in World War II, was officially formed as the NSA by president Harry Truman in 1952. The NSA controversies concern warrantless surveillance of persons within the United States during the collection of allegedly foreign intelligence as part of the touted war on terror initiated by George W. Bush in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. It has since expanded to spying of individuals, institutions, corporations and governments globally.

    • "...aiding and abetting fascism in America."
    "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." ~ SINCLAIR LEWIS

  71. Which is why my vote this time around will be third-party.

  72. All through history, nations have incurred revolts by it's people. What do you do when the Government does things here that in any other nation would lead to revolt? This undoubtedly proves the reality that Television is a form of electronic Anesthesia.

    I still won't forget that all those big tech companies aided the government for years until it became common knowledge thanks to Snowden.

    Now the tech companies are fighting the government because their very existence is at stake after they have been outed.

    Oh, excuse me, I forgot to turn off my cellphone.

  73. The tech companies are not "fighting the government". Don't believe eveything these traitors say.

  74. "Invaded by the government"? A palpable lie. These companies have been cooperating with NSA and god knows who else for decades.

    Even encoding software has 'fixes' in it put there by the government to enable it to decrypt messages. Possibly foreign-written encryption software is impervious to this. Possibly.

  75. Wow, we are seeing a torrent of stories about how privacy is back! Companies are fighting back against NSA, Congress passed the Freedom Act! Thanks NYT and Google for bringing back freedom and privacy!

    (I guess I will forget that encryption I was planning to use on my email, it's all good now! Be happy.)

  76. They had to learn the hard way: If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

  77. Well, thanks for helping the bad guys, so called giants. Now, regular people will continue to be ignored as before, but law enforcement won't be able to do their jobs. Genius

  78. The NSA is much more a threat to the civil liberties of regular people than Al Qaeda.

  79. Communication is vital either for the Good Guy/Bad Guy. Its a Catch 22 between Security/Privacy. Mass survelllience is illegal. Like the Criminal Justice system "You are Innocent untill proven Gulity". Its a tough choice, outside of ulterior motive. Anyway NSA is supposed to have 40,000 Mathematicians, most would not be sitting idle.

  80. Here Robert Litt trots out that classic disingenuous prognostication: "sooner or later there will be some intelligence failure and people will wonder why the intelligence agencies were not able to protect the nation."

    Well, we're ALREADY wondering how - with their unprecedented level of access to private domestic communications and massive database of telecommunications metadata - they still couldn't "protect the nation" from the likes of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston or Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood. These domestic terrorists were communicating with radical Islamists overseas in the run ups to their attacks, but where were our 'know it all" intelligence agencies? Are we really getting our $14B worth this year from the NSA?

  81. Yeah, like anyone is going to actually believe that the Uber-Internet powers are going to "protect" anyone .. from the Big-Bad "Government" after they sold our souls to Corporate interests, data bases, mega-marketers and god-knows-who-else to make a profit. Just another ploy to charge yet another "fee". Can't wait to hear what the name of it will be.

  82. If you want confidential communications, use mediums protected by law against compromise. If your medium of choice isn't protected, elect representatives that will write & pass laws to do so.
    This country's been doing that for almost 240 years . . . and there's no end in sight :)

  83. Funny not one mention in the whole article on if the NSA's little "secret closet" at AT&T's Folsom Street fibre-optic switching and relay station has been shuttered. Did The Times receive a National Security Letter directing not to publish this information?

  84. If spying is the collection of data, then internet giants are spy agencies - in fact, it's their business model.

    The only question is who's paying for the service?

    Do I hear any bids?

  85. It would seem that the Obama Administration intends to let the NSA do just about anything it wants to sabotage American business overseas or for that matter, anywhere else. I'm sure it thinks that the NSA is really just developing the tools that will let us fight countries that would do us harm. And that the fact that American corporations are no longer trusted in places it does business is small consequence for "keeping us safe." Of course, anyone can plainly see that there is no end to this, that the NSA has become an untouchable agency beyond the reach of laws to which the president gives lip service and the congress, well, what do they ever do? But I suppose we should all agree that we're just a whole lot safer now because of them. All of you agree, right?

  86. “an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily”

    In a discussion on Snowden, when I put the question to a retired major of the Air Force about whether it was terrorism or tyranny that he feared more, he answered without hesitation that it was terrorism. But for me, it is those who need to know it all in order to keep me safe that I fear most. The Internet companies have taken a first good step. Now who will ensure that our data is safe with them and that we have final say over how it is used as it goes through their channels? Who gets to decide what is seen through those Google glasses?

  87. Isn't this smoke and mirrors, i.e., can't the NSA just issue secret orders that gives them whatever access they need to the servers, regardless of traffic encryption?

    Until the day comes that these companies are willing to defy the law and tell us when such orders are issued, how will we know?

  88. Until Congress has the guts to dissolve the so-called Patriot Act, all of this is worthless. Disband the NSA. Disband the TSA. Revoke the Patriot Act. Give us back the Bill of Rights. We are Americans. We are not terrorists. Quit treating us as such.

  89. I would rather have the government possibly snooping through my data than to know for sure that private, for-profit companies are mining it to sell to the highest bidder in advertising markets. Google is making itself out to be the good guy here, when it fact, it just doesn't want to share the data it already has on us with the government. Do we trust Google enough to let it have all our information at its fingertips? We already do.

  90. G and FB have to make money somehow to pay for the nice services they now provide for free. But consumers pay for nearly everything else they consume, including lunch. Why not start paying G and FB for their services? Then G and FB can pay the bills without selling personal data.

  91. Consumers private data is a gold mine worth billions. So called "free" service companies would have gone under without the massive amounts of data they collect and resell. Not to mention stealing consumers images and content for their own financial gain.

    It is they who should be paying consumers, and they can start with security.

  92. You do realize that the government has the power to arrest you, imprison you indefinitely, fine you, and even KILL you? The government has far more power than the biggest private company in the world and that power increases all the time. Know it and fear it.

    If someday in the near future, drones rained down death on thousands of American citizens with politically incorrect views, it would surprise me, but not a whole lot. This is NOT a free country by any stretch of the imagination.

  93. Google, the world's largest intelligence agency with more data on private citizens around the globe than any government can policy hope to accumulate, leading the charge to keep governments out of citizen data. And people are falling for this.

  94. It's the US government that locks people up - sometimes wiithout a trial, not Google. It's the US government that is so paranoid that any communication with anyone outside the country immediately brings about investigation and spying. Google actually knows that such communication is normal in this age. I am aware that Google has access to nearly everything I do, and I can take steps to avoid this. Of course, the 17 US spy agencies have no such restraints.

  95. The good news that is Google and Facebook are working harder to protect your private information and communications from the prying eyes of government.

    The bad news is that Google and Facebook are working harder to monetize your private information and communications, peddling it to every advertiser on the planet.

    I don't understand why anyone would get involved with facebook in the first place.

  96. Edward Snowden is an American Hero. He should be awarded the Medal of Freedom should any president have the spine to do so. He should also be welcomed home with a ticker-tape parade and his birthday made a national holiday.

    As for Mr. Obama's abysmal presidency, those who were foolish enough to vote for him hang our heads in shame. GW Bush was a disaster from America in countless ways, but he was never a disappointment because we expected so little. Obama, on the other hand, rode into the 2008 campaign on a white horse, flags flying and promises made. That he turned out to have feet of - what is less substantial than clay? - is a genuine American tragedy.

    Our government has turned against its own people and has turned this country into a modern day KGB police state. Enemies from the outside we can deal with, but enemies from within are far more treacherous to our freedom and our future. They are the ones we must be on guard against.

  97. Bravo ! Score one for the common people !

  98. The government seems to be saying that any desire for privacy whatsoever will interfere with 'protection' of our country.
    But I would be very wary about labeling Google and others as saviors, they have their own agendas.
    The farmer doesn't keep his chickens safe for their benefit.

  99. People do not know what is what. Internet giants are also powerful entities, whose personnel do spy on others and have their own private interests in thwarting some of them. The best hope is for some English nation to takeover the command of the Internet. However, most English nations have been infiltrated and there is no boundaries anywhere.

    I have had experience of bullying by the personnel inside 'Internet Giants'.

  100. This quite interesting , every one wants see what "others" are doing. With this approach we are going no where. At the end of the day everybody is going to be naked. However if you want to avoid it, governments & Tech. companies has to draw the line & then more importantly respect it. Interesting though, no one seems to care about whose information is being shared. It's like there was a time when we used to have word "Privacy" in our dictionary.

  101. Great. Now if only these giants would stop spying on their users and, among other things, cramming unwanted "personalized" ads into browsers, many of which are offensive and in poor taste.

  102. it is remarkable how well designed and executed the snowden operation turned out to be. and be assured, it was a foreign intelligence operation.

    it dispersed over 1.5 million national security documents to the hands of foreign nationals, and passed them through the territories to two governments most likely to use the information against the united states. it turned the legislative system against covert cyber operations, for no other reason than careerist political cover; it made foreign governments less cooperative with our diplomatic and business operations; and it inflamed an already poorly informed public opinion.

    the damage is artfully prolonged by the periodic release of new secrets, in dribs and drabs, to keep the story alive as long as possible.

    i am still waiting to see publication of the list of all the private citizens who were actually harmed by this "surveillance". how long is that list, actually? where was the harm proportionate to this massive breach of national security? someone at the NY Times, surely, can make the accounting of all the wrecked lives, ruined businesses and soiled reputations among private citizens. list them for me: weigh them in the balance.

  103. … and be assured, it was a foreign intelligence operation.

    And your proof is?
    BTW if I was the target of any surveillance and my metadata was stored without a warrant, I consider myself to be harmed, and my 4th amendment rights violated.

  104. Funny isn't it how nowadaze Americans and American companies feel a need to protect themselves from their own government when, in fact, government is supposed to be looking out for them.

    Have we lost sight of the fact that government works FOR US?

    If this was your private business and your employees were doing this to you wouldn't you fire the lot of them? We vote in November. It's time for some firings!

  105. Finally, a situation where I root for large corporations over the government, what? I can't believe I'm so happy about this.

  106. It would be much easier if the NSA simply respected the law and Constiution.

  107. Internet Giants?

    That leaves the telephone companies who have always been lapdogs for the authorities.

    Turn off your cellphones and talk to others in person. The sound quality is better and its free.

    Stop making frivolous phone calls. Run them out of business. Then watch as the federal government bails them out because they are "Essential".

  108. These companies are more powerful than the government. They own your data. Do whatever you can to prevent them getting it. Warn your children off social media. Stay private.

  109. Every generation some twits have to rehearse the old Greek stories of hubris and downfall. Welcome to the heap of broken egos, NSA. You're in the company you deserve.

  110. don't forget about yahoo and google giving up chinese dissedents to the PLA back in 2007-2008
    trying hard to protect its customers?
    uh huh
    more like trying hard to keep dough rolling in and giving up their customers whenever possible
    google - traitors
    yahoo - traitors

  111. While I sympathize with these companies' problems caused by U.S government overreach, they are not pure-minded innocent white hats either. They cooperate enthusiastically with the Chinese Communist Party in hunting down dissidents. When Google objected at one time it was so unusual as to be major news, and they seem to have reached some compromise since.

    After a rocky start, Bill Gates became a favored American in China by transferring technology and cooperating with the government around 2005 in hunting dissent in several areas, including Skype in China, partly Microsoft's. The Chinese government pays for copies of Microsoft software, not just for the first one, as with many companies. A grad student discovered some terms searched for:

    "Since then, Knockel, a bearded, yoga-practicing son of a retired U.S. Air Force officer, has repeatedly beaten the ever-changing encryption that cloaks Skype’s Chinese service. This has allowed him to compile for the first time the thousands of terms—such as “Amnesty International” and “Tiananmen”—that prompt Skype in China to intercept typed messages and send copies to its computer servers in the country."

  112. According to this column Robert Litt, general counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said“. . . sooner or later there will be some intelligence failure and people will wonder why the intelligence agencies were not able to protect the nation.”

    Mr. Litt does not realize that there already has been an intelligence failure, and that we already wonder why the agencies were not there to protect us. The failure began when they started gathering, storing, and using data on many millions of people without their consent, without just cause, and without proper legal access. Creating such an intrusive behemoth endangers us all in ways no less frightening than a terrorist's bombs.

    Terrorists threaten only a few of us for a limited time. All of the fatalities in the U.S. attributable to terrorists represent only a tiny fraction of those we ourselves kill in domestic gun violence. A government that has no respect for the privacy and legal rights of its citizens, and that has the hubris to believe that it forever will exercise proper constraint in the use of its ill-gotten information, has the potential to tear out the heart of our democracy.

    We are Americans, Mr. Litt. It is our right to choose the dangers we will face and those that we find unacceptable. We do not need to be patronized, and we certainly do not need to be protected at the cost of our privacy.

  113. "Robert S. Litt, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.... said on Wednesday that it was 'an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily' with American spy agencies.

    What is an unquestionable loss is the huge amount of taxpayer money that is wasted on the ODNI and its bureaucrats like Litt. The ODNI is a creation of the fantasy of control. ODNI "oversees" with its eyes closed and its mouth shut.

    But soon Litt will be off to some lobbying firm and another hack will be brought in to talk a lot and say nothing.

  114. If you want privacy don't do you business in a window. Or on an "Inter"net.

    Operation to
    Observe and

    What should concern people more, and is not mentioned in this article, is the fact that these companies are enticing customers into storing both their data and programs in "the cloud" knowing that the government can shut off access to the Internet by everyone with just the flip of a switch. Then your access to all of your data and programs is gone like a wisp of a cloud.

  115. And the moon is made out of cheese. Is there an adult alive in this country who is still naive enough to believe anything that comes out of the mouths of business executives, and politicians, as well as the bought and paid for media? This country is in desperate need for REAL leaders being in all our major leadership positions, and it is up to the public to make it happen.

  116. And don't forget the Press. Example: "As fast as it can, Google is sealing up cracks in its systems that Edward J. Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had brilliantly exploited."

    Guess whence this.

  117. Edward Snowden: National Hero

  118. Edward Snowden: Liar, arrogant, spy, unprincipled, thief.

  119. If Google reads my mail, Google does it to sell me things, or sell my information to people who want to sell me things. It's depressing & exhausting to be the constant target of pressure to buy stuff, but it's just nowhere as serious as what the government can do if it reads my mail (etc.): it can hamper my travel, freeze my assets, have me arrested or target me for a drone strike. I wish to God I had actual privacy. The lack of it is a social deformity that is very damaging to us all. The self is forged in solitude. But the government surveillance is the worst. Weirdly, its perpetrators seem to have no awareness that they have delivered us all into a fascistic hell-world.

  120. "...It's depressing & exhausting to be the constant target of pressure to buy stuff, but it's just nowhere as serious as what the government can do if it reads my mail (etc...."

    Yeah, they have certainly prevented you from speaking out publicly, haven't they? They have thrown you in jail, beaten you, seized your property, and threatened your family and friends because you exercised your freedom of speech. Gosh, Edward Snowden sure did you a favor by tipping off Al Qaeda to how they were being tracked and monitored.

    Meanwhile thousands of people are being killed, beaten, threatened, and restricted every month in other countries by Al Qaeda and their affiliates. Those same organizations are using the Internet to recruit Americans to their cause, and self-radicalized Americans are in fact being intercepted by the authorities nearly every month before they can execute new plots.

    But you go ahead and worry about what the evil old US Government *MIGHT* do. Never mind the fact that the people working for the government are your neighbors, friends, and relatives. They obviously have it in for you.

  121. I don't believe an encryption method has been devised that the NSA can't crack, if they haven't already. Remember the disclosure that they got the company that made encryption software to insert a back door that would allow them to read anything the software was used to encrypt. NSA is pernicious and capable of doing anything to get what they want. I don't believe they will stop at anything, and I mean anything, to get what they want.
    And like another commenter said, the government has ignored real warnings brought to their attention that still resulted in the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon attack. Their problem is they don't know how to evaluate what they already know.

  122. The right to privacy....

    This is the issue.....and the right of the US citizen to this
    privacy is the issue...and should be discussed and deliberated
    on by our representatives in Congress....openly as soon as the best debate this issue.

  123. That's like the sheep asking the wolves to meet to discuss how the wolves will eat the sheep!

  124. Unfortunately, it sounds too much like a war between the Titanic and the Iceberg with both sides manufacturing their own fog. Without continuing and greater cooperation, innocent people are almost certain to go down.

  125. But what about the Snowden revelations that these companies co - operated with the NSA to facilitate its unlawful intrusion into our lives?

  126. "But what about the Snowden revelations that these companies co - operated with the NSA to facilitate its unlawful intrusion into our lives?"

    Those "revelations" misrepresented the facts. Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have been shown to be distorting the facts and publishing outright lies on more than a dozen occasions.

    These corporations were complying with government orders, which is to be expected of any law-abiding business. As soon as their names hit the news and they began fearing for their business interests they lost their patriotism and decided that helping Al Qaeda would be in their best interests.

    Now that they are partitioning the Internet their data will become much more valuable to marketers and they'll make even more money. Meanwhile, all the gullible people who have believed Snowden's propaganda campaign will continue to clamor for more protections for Al Qaeda and their allies.

  127. No, no, you don't understand - they have promised not to do it any more! And surely they can be believed ...

  128. I've been in Telecommunications for 44 years. Every year that I was employed by AT&T I was required to sign a statement that I knew what the Secrecy Of Communications Act was and what it meant. I couldn't talk about the central offices, cable locations and various services provided to various government agencies. Caught divulging anything meant termination and possible Federal prosecution. That including anything overheard in the process of providing service on a repair. It obvious the law has been superceded by the Federals themselves when any agency can now demand the information on how to harvest the information itself. All the Nervous Nellies who think the whole world is looking to bomb us into oblivion and think this is the way to feel secure probably don't realize the danger is much closer to home if someone is tracking your purchase of fertilizer for the garden and diesel fuel for the generator or 25 lbs of nails to build a deck.

  129. In my mind, the only way to undercut this whole process is to make everything known to everybody... Of course, the business community may not like that very much... But it would do away with all this cloak and dagger stuff... (m.)

  130. "...make everything known to everybody..."

    That includes the enemy organizations we're working against. Thanks to Edward Snowden's treason, that task has become much more difficult. Thanks to the greed of Google, Microsoft, and other organizations Al Qaeda and their allies will soon be able to use the Internet to plot more ways to expand their war beyond the 30 countries they already operate in and to recruit yet more US citizens to their cause (media reports indicate about 10-12 self-radicalized US terrorists are stopped each year).

    Let's all hope the NSA and the other agencies have already figured out how to get around #ResetTheNet.

  131. Most of the "terrorists" are idiots the FBI sets up in elaborate stings they control from the start. Security theater and nothing more.

  132. It would be nice to think that the internet corporations' belated privacy safeguards are motivated by ethics, a sense of decency, respect for the privacy rights of their customers and respect for the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S. Unfortunately, their concern is rather for the bottom line. In contrast, at great personal risk and cost to himself, Edward Snowden took a principled, heroic and patriotic stand when he revealed to the American people and the world the extent to which the U.S. government, through the NSA, was engaged in routine, wholesale, warrantless, indiscriminate and illegal spying on everyone. Robert Litt, of the ODNI, calls it “'an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily' with American spy agencies." Wrong Bob: the loss for our nation is the further erosion of trust that Americans have in their own government. The stunning arrogance of the NSA in its utter disregard for the constitution and for the privacy rights of American citizens places its bulk data collection programs right up there with the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service) and the CIA's and US Army's "Project MKUltra" in which LSD was administered to hapless citizens and service members. Litt and his henchmen can't seem to get it through their heads: we don't want to live under a North-Korea-style government if that's the price we have to pay for our "safety."

  133. "...where there is no explicit requirement for a legal warrant..."

    Odd, my reading of the U.S. Constitution's 6th Amendment interrupts the passage as a warrant is an explicit requirement in ALL cases without exception. "The right of the people to be secure...against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

  134. You probably mean the Fourth Amendment, which covers search and seizure; the Sixth Amendment concerns representation by counsel.

  135. No one likes to believe we live in a nation that invades our privacy without our knowledge. The N.S.A. claims to invade our privacy for the purpose of protecting us from an attack. If that were all they could do, most would not be overly upset.

    The Internet giants, however, invade our privacy in order to make a profit, which becomes a more upsetting phenomenon. We are all vulnerable to ads appearing whenever we go to Google Search, Facebook, even our internet mail, not to mention the spam, fraud, and theft of our most personal data.

  136. I don't trust any of them. Neither the government goons, nor the data hoarders. Can they capture sign language? I'm speaking succinctly with sign languange now.

  137. Where are the "gray areas"?
    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

  138. That would assume that we live in a true democracy that our founding fathers intended. We don't, and haven't for a long time. We live in a totalitarian autocracy (Totalitarianism referring to a system where the state strives to control every aspect of life and civil society.) Rights to privacy and our voting system are simple smokescreens to the reality of living in this system.

  139. Sobering revelations by Sanger and Perlroth. What this situation demonstrates to proponents of government surveillance is that it's a challenging game to their technicians that overrides ethical (and legal) concerns. The quote:

    "Next to a quickly drawn smiley face, an N.S.A. analyst, referring to an acronym for a common layer of protection, had noted, 'SSL added and removed here!'"

    illustrates that there is no going back. The spy agencies are chartered to get that information. So proponents need to accept that with all of its deleterious consequences.

    Our companies are at war with foreign interests, and also with our own government. I'm laughing because this intense network surveillance started under the Bush administration. This demonstrates why the GOP is so confused. It reads like a tautology:

    Republicans are intensely pro-business and attack Democrats as Socialists.
    Republicans backed uncontrolled internet spying.
    The spying impairs our companies' ability to do business in the world.
    Pro-business Republicans are impairing companies' abilities to do business.

    We do need an industrial/business policy in this nation. One side can't be hindering business while the other wants to develop it. No one denies that intelligence is an extremely important function in governments. I think congress and presidents need to be responsible. A lot of this activity started in the office of the VP and congress looked the other way. Government needs to work for our citizens

  140. In truth, not one iota of this is news. In 1991 Phil Zimmermann wrote PGP -- "Pretty Good Privacy," an encryption program enabling people to transmit secure messages from point A to point B. It was freely available. Anyone with the slightest interest in keeping their laundry private could download it and securely encrypt their communications. I had played with it at the time for my own edification, but never used it to send any messages that truly needed to be encrypted. I just don't deal with things that need to be secure.

    Move forward 23 years. Now, the self-anointed security experts at Fortune 100 companies, in governments, etc., are SHOCKED to find out that someone has been looking at their unencrypted communications piped over unsecure lines that everyone always said were susceptible to hacking. I certainly heard many people in the 1990s and 2000s humorously speculate that the NSA had supercomputers listening for words of interest in every telephone conversation worldwide. Perhaps that was never true, but anyone whose job included security who did not know -- in advance - nearly everything that Snowden has released -- is a technological cretin and should be fired.

    They should start by firing the people who let Snowden get access to the materials he accessed. Someone has probably been promoted because of Snowden's mess.

    As for YOUR rights? If you leave your shades up, people will look in your windows. Stop complaining.

  141. US Telecommunication and internet providers face a major PR challenge to regain the lost trust from customers after the Snowden/NSA espionage affair revelations.

    From the beginning, the perception overseas of the Snowden/NSA affairs went beyond the realm of individual privacy/freedom into industrial espionage and geopolitics.

    It is awkward for President Obama to demand EU support to face Russia while listening to Chancellor Merkel's private phone conversations. Germans are a proud people and cannot be humiliated so easily.

    It remains to be seen whether PR and, more importantly, deeds by US cyber corporations will regain the lost trust. One thing for sure. The era of unimpeded global access by major internet corporations is coming to an end. From now on, the cost of doing business overseas will go up significantly.

  142. One can never trust any representations by commercial enterprise or the government in these matters. The best hope is competition by foreign governments and companies that will provide consumers with choices. The vision of a global internet to foster communications for all citizens of the planet is dead . . . ironically killed by governments acting for the "common good."

  143. About time someone decided not to rely on good government intentions.

    Some in government mean well, but most in government mean neither ill nor well. Each is so small a part of the whole government, that if he sounds a true alarm to a present danger, he likely gets no thanks. Likelier if he gets any notice, it is to shut him up. But for a false alarm he gets plenty of criticism or worse. So most figure "What's the use?" and likely say nothing.

    Robert Litt can bemoan without letup. But even our democratically chosen government is unlikely to restrain itself against violating privacy. That is because so many justifications for violating privacy litter the path, alarm sounders are rare, the few would-be alarm sounders are justifiably timid, and even if the alarm is sounded it oft gets lost in the bureaucracy.

    Snowden truly seems a grandiose, narcissist, but we are equally lucky that he short-circuited government bureaucracy by taking full back-up to the media. No easy explaining his back-up away.

  144. As one of the chief snoops notes, “sooner or later there will be some intelligence failure and people will wonder why the intelligence agencies were not able to protect the nation.”

    When that happens (and it's only a "when" given the hate we're breeding as we drone from the skies and suck up the earth's resources), people will insist that the government not only read all digital info but read minds as well (the technology's coming!).

    Ahh, that never-ending quest to achieve the perfect way to "protect the nation" will finally lead to a nation not worth protecting.

  145. Perhaps the only upside in the US Government's cold war against its own citizens is an economic boost creating by the massive spending necessary to conduct it. The government spends more money on defense contractors to spy on us, corporations spend more money protecting themselves from defense contractors.

    For the military industrial complex it's win-win as they play both sides against the middle-class.

  146. Good article demonstrating the overall challenges of balancing "for the common good" by "violating individual privacy" and someone is really looking out for us.

    I think the saddest part in all of this is the media, in particular the tv news, compare us to the worst countries typically to say we are the best. Are they trying to indirectly tell us that we can no longer compare ourselves to the best and say we stand beside them?

    On the positive side of things, this does create jobs for math and computer whizzes, but on the flip side it doesn't necessarily mean job creation for us in the states. A good example is we outsourced the website to CGI Federal which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian firm CGI Group. I just wonder if we now not only have to compare ourselves to the worst countries in other things, we also believe we have no one left in the states to even program the simple stuff like websites?

    I am confused and boy am I glad someone else isn't and knows what they are doing?

  147. Unreal. Those who collect far more personal data than all government agencies put together, and who use it to manipulate all of you, are being praised because they move to block use of that data, selectively, by those agencies motivated solely to protect us.

    Indeed, why do you think they released information about their security practices? In the security business -- which I've had some small contact -- one never advertises that! Doing so compromises the very security you are moving to create.

    They are doing that so they can say, "See, we're good guys!" and earn your trust. They claim to be acting in your interests when they are actually acting in their own: Maintain a compliant client base that won't object to being manipulated.

    And you fall for it.


  148. Just perfect. The people who have been collecting everyone's personal data for commercial reasons are in a contest with those who have been collecting personal data for national security reasons. Does anyone believe they won't eventually merge the data -- say, in an internet? -- at considerable cost to the naked, hapless consumer/taxpayer if anything serious happens?

  149. There are two reasons for Google to lay their own submarine cables. First they get exclusive use of the bandwidth, and second they have total control and ownership of the cable landing site. This last is critical.

    Undersea cables and their onshore fiber optic equipment are mostly owned by a consortium of companies, and the landing sites will have co-located optical line terminals from multiple companies. This "jumble" makes it easy for the NSA and the British GCHQ to attach optical splitters to copy all the data through the site (and the cable) relatively undetected.

    Edward Snowden's early document disclosures include references to 5-6 cable sites in the UK where the NSA and British Intelligence (GCHQ) installed splitters to intercept, copy, and analyze data all traffic. It's not clear who in a consortium authorized their access, but in future, it will be Google that has exclusive control to grant access.

  150. Why are you assuming that if Silicon Valley thwarts Washington, they've also thwarted Moscow and Beijing? In the same story you report how Russian security researchers -- they are required to be Putin loyalists to stay in business and cooperate with the FSB -- found Flame. Accident, comrades?

    Snowden has been great to distract from the fact that Google, Facebook, Twitter and all the big platforms scrape our data first, before the NSA gets to it, and have used this not only for marketing but for getting Obama elected (see the story of Obama for America and its huge data drill -- and how that data now belongs to the private Organizing for Action, not the Democratic Party). They'll go on doing this even if now they might block the view for NSA.

    But worst of all, the big new ratchet of the crypto arms race -- at least the Times has called it accurately -- thwarts legitimate law-enforcement. Whenever the crypto kids set up shop with tools like Tor, what has happened? Illegal drug sales, paid assassinations, and child pornography thrive - oh, and espionage. it's a marvel that journalists keep ignoring that a program invented by Naval Intelligence is now being used by Snowden and his supporters to seriously undermine national security -- all in the name of enabling the armed forces to use civilians as shields in their espionage.

  151. When Google or Microsoft challenge a national security letter, how do we know that there aren't business interests instead of needed law-enforcement interests driving them? Obviously a balance is needed in a democratic society.

    As for the supposed vulnerability in the Google data centers, those documents were never in fact revealed to the cryptologists who could have commented expertly on them and they themselves complained about Greenwald's own lack of transparency. Only one Google employee in the UK has claimed this is true and we have never had a robust acknowledgement from Google of its veracity. Since when is a smiley face technical proof?

  152. Here's my take away: It's every man/woman/corporation for him/her/itself because the US Government refuses to recognize Constitutional limits and has totally run amok.

    It's literally front page news that we are forced to take whatever precautions we can to protect ourselves from what is essentially the Stasi on steroids.

    How sad is that?

  153. It is difficult not to feel cynical about Silicon Valley now making it more difficult for the U.S. government to peer into their communications and data. As others have pointed out, most of these companies make some of their profits from reselling the data they glean from their customers, I.E., those browsing the Web via their phones, tablets and computers. This is the basic Web 2.0 model of Google, Facebook, and others offering "free" software.

    So, if they make it more difficult for N.S.A., they make it more difficult for themselves as well. Plus, anything done in the name of technological security can be undone by others elsewhere in government and industry. It isn't a matter of whether corporate security measures will be hacked. It is only a matter of when.

    Furthermore, if our government decides to pass laws about sharing data with our intelligence agencies, the tech companies will have to comply, just as Vodaphone is doing in those unnamed countries which insist upon it. What our tech companies are doing is public relations with their customers to make them believe they are more secure, when, in reality, they are not.

  154. From the very first Snowden revelation until this moment the giant internet companies lied and mislead their users and the public. Any foreign company would be seriously negligent should it use the cloud services of any of them or to buy equipment from Cisco or any other US manufacturer of internet hardware.

    I personally will try my best never to use them again there are plenty of alternatives.

    The ONLY thing they can do is provide very strong and verifiable end to end encryption - short of that its just all PR (lies).

  155. End-to-end encryption such as that afforded by using PGP is available today and has been for many years. There is no need to depend upon a Google for this. In fact, we'd want to do this ourselves to avoid giving to Google et al our private keys.

    Given how popular these tools are (not), we can see how important security really is to people. It might be worth a whine or complaint but not the small effort involved in actually protecting our privacy.


  156. Sounds good. Doesn't mean much. The NSA is a behemoth. It will get what it wants, whatever it wants. The government exploits the human emotion known as irrational fear. The only known antidote is knowledge which irradiates the irrational part (90% of most fears) or simple human courage. Both those items are in short supply.

    Note the quote by Mr. Litt: "an unquestionable loss for our nation.....". Loss of what? Certainly not a loss of privacy or personal liberty or the freedoms upon which our country was founded. But this never occurs to Mr. Litt...he only sees a potential loss of something else.

    As long as we give government lots of money and power, the behemoth will exist and exert its harmful effects of exploiting fear. Mass surveillance in itself is pernicious and has a negative and limiting effect on human behavior.

    This is a fight between those who truly believe in the concepts of liberty and all its messy outcomes and forced personal responsibility and unknown future and lack of safety and lack of security and those who do not.

    Land of the Brave Home of the Free or Land of the Safe Home of the Comfortable.

    Which side are you on?

  157. Seventeen different US spy agencies - 17! And they assure us there is no overkill in the gathering of information; that even one refusal by a company or court to give them what they want will lead to a massive security loss that threatens the US. And then they wonder why no one believes them.

  158. The military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about has now hatched from its egg. And an ugly vulture it is.

  159. I feel so much better knowing that the corporations who are spying on me are working to prevent the government from freeloading on their efforts.

  160. Thanks for a needed laugh on this oppressive topic.
    What the NSA was doing never bothered me because I knew Google and FaceBook were there before them.

  161. So, will it be a better world when Google takes it over? It always ends up as: "meet the new boss; same as the old boss." I wonder if we will use this development against Snowden too.

  162. Great, let's lay as many fiber optic cables under the world's oceans as we can; let's destroy some of the earth, that is if we can find any (earth) left after hundreds of years of drilling, digging and blowing it apart to search for anything that could be used for man's profit. Even the beasts of this earth are taught, by Mother Nature, to know their friends but man, the worst beast of them all, can't see what animals and small children can see, that the earth is dying, it's actually being killed by all the profiteers who do these things for their own personal profit and even today there are those, with hearts, who can use their minds to speak the truth: to say that global warming is real and we must change our ways but, then there is always, ALWAYS, others, bought by money, who say there is no such thing and that if we change our ways it will "hurt" the "economy." this phony, made-up "economy" forced upon the "World" by the movers & shakers, the moneyed politicians, the "scientists and PhD's who will say anything for their profit and so the world dies and when it dies we too will die: even the Capitalists who will go down still screaming that they are right, even as they sink into the same earth and oceans they have destroyed, clasoing the last of their paper money tightly in their clenched fists.

  163. Google, NSA synonymous. The intent may differ, the results the same.

  164. Let's see how long this lasts. Encryption is made to be broken.

  165. I have always wondered how much legal sway over the IT companies the government really has. If the companies said no and threatened to take it all the way to the supreme court. I suspect the NSA quickly would back down.

  166. Personally I am far less worried about NSA than I am about the massive accumulation of personal data by giant corporations like Facebook and Google. NSA operates under strict rules and the information they gather can only be used against an American through the courts. Facebook, Google, and others like them amass a great deal of data on us that they sell to the highest bidder without any oversight at all. Remember that fascism has a strong corporate component.

  167. What a sad thing to read. Our internet suppliers have to erect barriers against our own govenment spying on us.

    How in the world did we get here? This is NOT America, nor should it be.

  168. Well, there's two considerations: the first is we don't really know the extent of how much the NSA is 'ahead' of the rest of the world in regards to cryptography, so we don't know if the barriers will block a motivated and well funded intelligence agency, we have a good idea from the Snowden documents available but don't really know; the second is that the NSA will find a way around.

    If there's a decision by some of the best young maths minds to leave the NSA or to not join the the NSA because of the Snowden leaks, as a recent technologist at the EFF suggested, then these barriers or future barriers could be harder for a well-funded intelligence agency to overcome.

    If history's any judge, though, the NSA will find a way in or around.

  169. The math can't be 'broken' only bungled attempts to code the math.

  170. It would be a lot cheaper just to ask for warrants, Maybe it's the judiciary that needs the tune up?

  171. Hoping for the FISA courts to protect our rights against the concerted guile of over-reaching federal prosecutors and intelligence agents is like expecting a finger in a dyke to protect New Orleans from Katrina. The FISA courts are a bad joke at the expense of the American people.

  172. So Google is now “denying requests to volunteer data not covered by existing law.” Eh? I’m not sure I understand the change. It’s the existing laws that enabled the government snooping in the first place. Hence the “proposed” Freedom Act, however hobbled it has become. Where’s the beef?

  173. The NSA: hoist by its own petard.

  174. Smoke signals, tea leaves, disappearing ink...the new communication tools.

  175. If they want to devise an encryption code that nobody can crack then maybe they need to talk to some Navajos.

  176. You keep mentioning the "Snowden Revelations" , as if his revealing this stuff came as a surprise ,right out of the Blue. The only reason these companies are now "Hardening" their defenses is because the realization by the Public at Large ,across the Globe has cut into their Bottom Lines. The PROFITS.
    As if they did not Know before the "Snowden Revelations" . What a Laugh !

  177. The only safe working assumption is that if a US I.T multinational is involved in your data handling( phone calls , cloud computing etc) the NSA/CIA gets a copy which it stores in one of it many dump sites.

  178. If this Op-Ed article intrigues you, I suggest you join me in reading the latest book by David Ignatius, The Director. Spot on!

  179. Keeping governments out of private citizens data. You expect us to believe this?
    Everyone knows Big Brother knows and sees all.

  180. If the the public thinks this is true well , I have news for you they are all bed with government from day 1 and it goes back to when copper wire rule the phones.
    You are the product , this will never change . Orwell was so correct.

  181. Regardless of the self-serving reasons Google and other companies are finally saying no to the US government, the fact is that they are and in doing so are siding with US citizens who are sick and tired of government invasion into their personal lives. This is monumental. For decades, the people of this country have had little to no voice in how their own government operates and certainly no powerful allies to help reinforce the privacy message. This actually might be the catalyst for a second Civil War - this time it is the people plus some wealthy and powerful tech companies vs. the government. And for once, some actual good news about large corporations.

  182. Fascinating early bout between Big Bucks and Big Brother. Ironic that Google et al — self-annointed trustees of our profit-rich and very personal "patterns of life" — may do more to protect Americans from the NSA's unconstitutional overreach than the right-tilting Supreme Court ever will. Somewhat amused that it took Snowden to bring this crisis to the fore, we're celebrating Snowden's year of leaking wonderfully at ‪

  183. Oh, thank goodness for this! Now Google can continue to keep eternal records of everything I purchase, read, write, and even wonder about, plus randomly conduct video surveillance of my front door, for profit motives only. Gee, that makes me feel so much better.

  184. Want to know the secret on how to keep conversations and ideas secret? Come over to my place and I will tell you in person!
    Outside of a few vital statistics most of the information about us on the web we put there ourselves, either through our web searches, online viewing habits or direct posts. Seriously, people we are our own worst enemies when it comes to cyber security, in our rush to be cool many of us have forsaken the art of the one on one conversation.

  185. Merely another technical challenge for the NSA to overcome.

  186. If Google, MS and FB were actually civic-minded, that sentiment would extend beyond data privacy to not out sourcing and off shoring so many jobs. Like those noble efforts, this encryption stuff is purely about protecting their businesses. If it helps private citizens, that is a coincidence.