Thursday, February 4, 2010

Firewall Needed: Google and the NSA

The Washington Post reports that Google and the National Security Agency are teaming up to identify the hackers who penetrated Google's China system. The article points out the need to balance privacy and security. That is a key libertarian problem that has become increasingly intricate with the advance of technology. Phone tapping posed issues that were unknown when the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, and now Internet technology poses ever more complex privacy problems. Here in the eastern Catskills, "hippies" will not get onto a computer because of fear of government. I'm not sure if this correlates with illegal behavior, but I know two people with good educations who will not get on any computer and never have. The article says that:

"collaboration is not easy, in part because private companies do not trust the government to keep their secrets and in part because of concerns that collaboration can lead to continuous government monitoring of private communications. Privacy advocates, concerned about a repeat of the NSA's warrantless interception of Americans' phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, say information-sharing must be limited and closely overseen."

Another aspect of an arrangement between US spook agencies and information services is the potential for international tension. It is likely that agents of the communist government were in involved in the hacking. Might pressure from the NSA create tensions with China?

The article quotes Matthew Aid, author of "The Secret Sentry":

"I'm a little uncomfortable with Google cooperating this closely with the nation's largest intelligence agency, even if it's strictly for defensive purposes."

Given that the collaboration between Google and NSA is primarily one involving sharing of information about the hackers' techniques and code, it would seem that the collaboration maximizes freedom. But given that Google has a lot of potentially embarrassing information about a large swathe of the American public, it needs to have NSA-proof systems philosophies in place to ensure a firewall between its data and the potentially suppressive activities of the government.

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