Snowden leaks: Google 'outraged' at alleged NSA hacking


A summary of US spying allegations brought about by Edward Snowden's leak of classified documents

Google has expressed outrage following a report that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has hacked its data links.

An executive at Google said it was not aware of the alleged activity, adding there was an "urgent need for reform".

The comments follow a Washington Post report based on leaks from Edward Snowden claiming that the NSA hacked links connecting data centres operated by Google and Yahoo.

The NSA's director said it had not had access to the companies' computers.

Gen Keith Alexander told Bloomberg TV: "We are not authorised to go into a US company's servers and take data."

But correspondents say this is not a direct denial of the latest claims.

'Extending encryption'

The revelations stem from documents leaked by ex-US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is wanted in the US in connection with the unauthorised disclosures.

The documents say millions of records were gleaned daily from the internet giants' internal networks.

They suggest that the NSA intercepted the data at some point as it flowed through fibre-optic cables and other network equipment connecting the companies' data centres, rather than targeting the servers themselves.

How intelligence is gathered

How intelligence is gathered
  • Accessing internet company data
  • Tapping fibre optic cables
  • Eavesdropping on phones
  • Targeted spying

The data was intercepted outside the US, the documents imply.

The data the agency obtained, which ranged from "metadata' to text, audio and video, were then sifted by an NSA programme called Muscular, operated with the NSA's British counterpart, GCHQ, the documents say.

The NSA already has "front-door" access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved programme known as Prism.

Google's chief legal officer David Drummond said Google did not provide any government with access to its systems.

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide," Drummond said in a statement.

"We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fibre networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform."

A spokesperson for Yahoo said the company had "strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centres, and we have not given access to our data centres to the NSA or to any other government agency".

An NSA spokesperson denied a suggestion in the Washington Post article that the agency gathered "vast quantities of US persons' data from this type of collection".

NSA Director Gen Keith Alexander: "We do not have access to Google servers, Yahoo servers"

The latest revelations came hours after a German delegation of intelligence officials arrived in Washington for talks at the White House following claims that the US monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

Two of Mrs Merkel's most important advisers, foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen, and intelligence coordinator Guenter Heiss were sent to take part in the talks - seen as a measure of how seriously Mrs Merkel takes the matter.

Next week, the heads of Germany's spying agencies will meet their opposite numbers in Washington.

'Inappropriate and unacceptable'

The head of US intelligence has defended the monitoring of foreign leaders as a key goal of operations but the US is facing growing anger over reports it spied on its allies abroad.

It has also been reported that the NSA monitored French diplomats in Washington and at the UN, and that it conducted surveillance on millions of French and Spanish telephone calls, among other operations against US allies.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said that if Spain had been a target of the NSA, this would be "inappropriate and unacceptable between partners".

James Clapper said knowing what foreign leaders were thinking was critical to US policymaking

However, Gen Alexander has said "the assertions... that NSA collected tens of millions of phone calls [in Europe] are completely false".

On Wednesday, the agency denied Italian media reports that it had targeted communications at the Vatican.

The UN said it had received assurances that its communications "are not and will not be monitored" by American intelligence agencies, but refused to clarify whether they had been in the past.

On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the intelligence panel of the House of Representatives that much of the data cited by non-US news outlets was actually collected by European intelligence services and later shared with the NSA.

He said foreign allies spied on US officials and intelligence agencies as a matter of routine.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    At least 99.99% of the data collected will never be looked at by human eyes. They will have computer programs looking for suspicious patterns and links to known suspects. I'm not worried about my privacy but I am a little worried by the risk of false positives where someone has innocent links to more than 1 suspected terrorist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    I think that is exactly right, but the consequence is profound when we start to make laws restricting who may watch whom.

    Governments are ALWAYS going to watch as much as they can. They need to watch everything and everyone in order to save the babies from evil men. That line isn't going to change, so the only question is whether we can watch government.

    Increasingly, we cannot. Snowden?

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    @217 doug

    I'd like to suggest an improvement. Rather than repeat bomb why not have variation? Making sure you mean "not" why not say "you should never assasinate the President" or "NBC warfare must be kept out of New York" or even "let's not nuke Washington"? And don't forget to say that the prime target is not SAC in Colorado Springs

    There by now GCHQ/NSA have run out of replacement lights :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    This is rich. Google that invaded people's privacy with google maps, streetview and sells what we google to all and sundry. Further it does its best to track exactly where we are so advertising can be even more targeted in Android(unless you turn it off - a bit like Apple).

    The only real downside is that the NSA therefore gained access to this information and that affects us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    @226 tightheadprop 'I think we should all be tagged at birth so we know where everyone is and all should be monitored '

    Really so you don't believe in freedom of speech then do you!!! As soon as someone voices an opinion you don't like well then you 'd target them that's your definition of a terrorist well then your re a megalomaniac! i do understand every country protects its interests but !!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Nations have always spied on friends and enemies alike as part of normal statesmanship and diplomacy. What's changed is the ease and scale of what can be accomplished along with the amount of personal information and communication easily available to the spies.

    Maybe its time for a measured international debate on the balance between security and privacy and what that means in the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Who's calling the kettle black now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Reading through the comments, it's interesting to see how far the Google brand has fallen. There was a day their motto of "don't be evil" actually held some meaning.

    Anyway, there's only one thing these tax-dodging billionaires understand & that's the corporate bottom line & you can do something about that by using an open-source browser with the adblock Edge extension installed. Google ads gone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Why are Google outraged?

    There were weeks of articles about the security of Googles systems and access by US Govt Security Services some time ago. I recall that Google were being very cooperative with US Govt requests.....

    This is nonsensical. It is unbelievably hypocritical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Who watches the watchers? – Other Watchers

    And who watches the people to whom the watchers are answerable to? – See above

    Privacy does not exist only the illusion of it exists.

    The reality is that everyone is watched including the watchers themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Technology should be used for improving our lives - instead of being abused under the banner 'we are saving your lives everyday'.

    If you trust the agencies (NSA/GCHQ et al) fine. But there must be boundaries/control over such organisations to prevent abuse.

    Obama claims he was unaware his so called ally Angela Merkels phone was tapped?

    Where is the control in that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Well I never fancy that Just fancy that Incredible just Incredible
    Choice :: Hitler vote for the conservatives , Labour easy vote for idi Amin dada

    Reeee diculous !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    @215 Geez.. I hope for your sake that you are being sarcastic!!!!

    All of those people are BLOOD SUCKING LEECHES!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Google 'outraged'


    Google is one of the largest trackers and harvesters of individuals information.

    Sounds like spin and smoke screen.

    Covert access to data networks has been built in since the 1980's, a simple example can be found in the System X telephone exchange software manuals, any line (including data) can be remotely dialed into and monitored.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    To all of the people who think that it's fine that the US can read your boring emails and web cookies, please take into account that anyone you might have innocently emailed in the past ten years might have, albeit unknown to you, also been involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Which could, of course, inadvertently link you to it and land you in a detention cell awaiting extradition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    The NSA has been doing this for decades.

    Microsoft is in bed with them as well. The Xbox One has a built in backdoor so the NSA can use the camera (that you can't turn off) to spy on you at any time.

    It's like a parody of 1984, except it's actually happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I'm less concerned about the alleged 'snooping' of our intelligence agencies - with few resources they will be targeting real threats, not trivia, affairs and other 'personal secrets' some of us may be afraid will come to light. I am more worried about the massive data gathering by google and their ilk - for what purpose. Certainly not national security!

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    In the Terry Gilliam film Brasil, An error caused by a fly getting jammed in a printer, which caused it to misprint a file, resulting in the incarceration and death during interrogation of Mr. Archibald Buttle instead of the suspected "terrorist", Archibald Tuttle.

    With blanket surveillance, the about scenario becomes a distinct possibility!!

    Kafka was right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Google are the biggest spying company in the world. They drop in on your browsing habits, emails via Gmail and Android phones. They have no right to react to be watched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Google -

    Now you know how it feels to have your privacy invaded and made public to all.

    Or do you think your street cars with cameras don't count ?

    Zero sympathy for you.


Page 30 of 42


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