If the experience of email provider Lavabit, and its implications for Gmail users, hasn’t been enough to convince those who use Google’s tools regularly that the search giant maybe doesn’t have our best interests at heart when it cozies up to Uncle Sam, then maybe this will.
In a pleasantly surprising recent piece at Politico, Richard Viguerie wrote that Google is the NSA’s leading information vendor, and conservatives should be very worried.
Conservatives must begin to scrutinize the nexus between tech companies, such as Google, and the federal government. There is no longer a wall between the private sector and government surveillance.… The NSA tapping into Google’s data centers is reminiscent of the age-old “Willie Sutton” rule: The agency captured personal data profiles from Google because that’s where the data is. Indeed, the search giant has emerged as the purveyor of all of our personal information — in one sense the NSA’s leading vendor.
Obama cheerleader Eric Schmidt, of course, isn’t going to do anything to hurt the Google brand. After all, they spell out in their quarterly and annual financial filings how afraid they are that someone will stop thinking they’re cool(Nerds.) And so Eric Schmidt has made headlines recently saying he’s outraged that the NSA has been spying on Google servers – if the allegations are true, that is.
But those of us who have been watchdogging Google for awhile know better than to trust Schmidt. The Heartland Institute blog went a step further than Viguerie, pointing out that Schmidt’s faux outrage is curious given that the company has been closely working with spy agencies for over a decade:
Google’s faux outrage at the Washington Post’s Snowden story that the NSA directly tapped into Google’s internal network of data centers to surveil whatever it wanted, is akin to the classic line in Casablanca, where Captain Renault feigned public outrage in telling his casino partner: “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”
…Google is not an unsophisticated, unwitting victim of hacking by the NSA, or that it is opposed to spying. Google Inc. clearly does not have the coercive sovereign power that the NSA has. However, the evidence shows that it has similar spying habits, legal positions, and attitudes; and that it also has had a decade-long record of cooperation with U.S. intelligence services.
In fact, just in September, Google’s executive chairman had this to say about the NSA:
There’s been spying for years, there’s been surveillance for years, and so forth. I'm not going to pass judgment on that. It's the nature of society.
In other words, when the NSA spies on the rubes, it’s all copasetic…but mess with Google, and Schmidt hits the roof. Talk about Googling your favorite cake recipe and eating it, too.
I think we should broadly be more engaged on Internet privacy than we already are. We may not feel the effects of government encroachment online like we do when we write a check to the IRS, but the threat is very real, and Google is Big Government’s biggest enabler.