Over the last couple of days a lot of disturbing facts have surfaced about the tech industry’s relationship with the US government. So far we know that Verizon is turning massive amounts of customer data over to the NSA because they were/have been compelled to by a secret court order. We also know that AT&T has been giving all or most of it’s customer’s call data and possibly recordings to the US government for the last several years. It is likely that Sprint and T-Mobile are guilty of something similar, but because of the covert nature of the situation, nothing has been confirmed yet.
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The obvious question that comes to mind right now: Who else is willingly violating the privacy of their users? In just the last 48 hours we have had statements from Facebook and Apple denying that they have been turning over private data to government agencies beyond what has been legally required of them. Now we have a very pointed statement from Google entitled “What the…” from Larry Page.
In typical Larry Page form no words were minced. Larry made it very clear in a blog post this morning that Google is not violating it’s users trust.
“First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. governmentâ€”or any other governmentâ€”direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.”
Good news everyone! Google isn’t selling us out. Keep in mind that Google is in the data business. They provide many amazing free services to all of us, and in exchange they get to use that data to target ads. It is a fantastic trade-off and it works well most of the time. If Google were to sell their customers out to government spooks in exchange for brownie points from Washington DC they would have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain. For now it looks like our usage data that Google stores is safe.
“Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period”
I love how blunt Larry Page is, and at this point there is not reason to doubt what he is telling us. Notice that he said Google pushes back when requests for information from the government don’t follow the correct process. This means that government agencies have been attempting to bypass the law in order to get their hands on our data. This is just one more disturbing piece of news. If privacy matters to you, make your voice heard.