NSA Scandal: Google Reveals How It Shares Your Data

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has revealed extensive details about what it does when the government asks for access to your personal data. It's part of an ongoing attempt by the search giant to distance itself from the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance scandal.

Google's explanation is designed to make a clear point: that it delivers the data directly to the government, rather than allowing the government to physically access Google computers.

The company wants to make clear it doesn't allow officials the opportunity to access more data than the law requires. (Source: nytimes.com)

Google continues to deny having any knowledge of the NSA's PRISM surveillance program. A former NSA contractor has claimed PRISM allows security officials direct access to the files of many leading tech firms, meaning they can retrieve personal data on non-US citizens without needing a court order.

Google: No Back Doors to Data Files

Google says there's no such "back door" and that the only information the government can collect on its users -- other than what's publicly available on the web -- is what Google gives it.

The company says that when forced to hand over data it most commonly delivers it through FTP (file transfer protocol), a filesharing technology that's widely used by people uploading files to appear on a website.

Google says this is a secure system and the government doesn't need to access any Google machines (either physically or remotely) to get the data.

Google also says that in some cases it even delivers the data in a more secure fashion by putting the information on an external hard drive or memory stick, then taking it to the security officials in person. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

Is Google Allowed to Speak Freely?

While detailing the delivery methods might seem like a trivial point, Google wants to stress the fact that it's not allowing officials any access to its machines to retrieve the relevant files, something that might allow them to snoop around.

In other words, Google wants to leave the impression it does the absolute minimum required to satisfy the law on handing over data.

The problem is that more cynical analysts believe it's possible -- perhaps even likely -- that firms such as Google are not only forced to give security officials shocking levels of access to files, but are also forced to lie about it.

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