Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s director for law enforcement and data security Richard Salgado called on Congress to be more transparent about National Security Agency (NSA) activities because uncertainty over data security is driving away overseas clients, report David Ingram and Tabassum Zakaria for Reuters.
“The free flow of data globally is critical to ever-expanding amounts of economic activity throughout the world, and limitations on that flow could have severe unintended consequences, such as a reduction in data security, increased costs, decreased competitiveness, and harms to consumers,” said Salgado, who also made some obligatory comments about privacy and human rights.
Google users have chosen to trust the company
To hear Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (or practically any large tech firm) criticize the government over privacy issues and transparency is certainly ironic, but the reality is that Google users have chosen to trust the company with their data, even if they don’t understand exactly how it’s being used. When we post on Facebook, we understand that we are divulging something to the world and to a corporation that intends to monetize that information. But the NSA’s sweeping surveillance efforts are meant to strip away the compartmentalization and basic encryption that must people use to protect their privacy (NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has said multiple times that strong encryption works, but most people don’t have the technical savvy to use it correctly).
Internet services like Lavabit have shut down rather than take part in NSA surveillance, and any company looking into cloud computing platforms or network services knows that working with a U.S.-based company means giving the U.S. government access to everything you do. That’s going to drive away international business, if it hasn’t already, and open the door for more European competitors to the U.S. tech sector.
The NSA claims that this would harm national security
For now, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) just wants to be able to publish aggregate data about the type and frequency of requests it receives from intelligence agencies without fear of getting sued. The NSA claims that this would harm national security, but this is their standard rebuttal to pretty much any criticism. What’s more likely is that the public will be shocked if that information ever comes out and that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) hopes that shock will turn into reform that gets the NSA off its back.