Two weeks ago, The Washington Post published a bombshell report, revealing that the National Security Agency (NSA) has hacked into Google’s and Yahoo’s data centers and taken millions of private user records each day for analysis.
Then last week, the newspaper revealed additional background, with new evidence from the source documents and interviews with confidential sources, demonstrating that the NSA accessed data traveling between those centers.
These documents were part of the secret files that whistleblower Edward Snowden released a few months ago. If accurate, they reveal that the government can access and store encrypted information stored on the private servers of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies that provide service hundreds of millions of U.S citizens.
What the NSA Took
According to the secret documents, the NSA not only took and analyzed metadata (which reveals who sent or received emails and the date they were sent or received), but also email text, audio clips, and videos. In essence, the NSA knows who you sent emails to or received emails from, the data in your emails, and what videos and audio clips you have accessed.
It’s good to keep in mind that they are not merely collecting this information for ongoing investigations or for specific individuals suspected of crimes or possible terrorist acts. They are collecting this information on everyone.
Google and Yahoo’s Response
Google has released a statement indicating that they have been concerned about this possibility for some time, and is “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers.” Yahoo simply said that they have not given access to their data centers to the NSA.
Google went on to say that they were not aware of any NSA snooping. Which begs the question, what should worry us more: that the NSA is hacking into Google and Yahoo, or that these companies may not have been aware of this breach?
How Should We React to this News?
The news that the NSA is hacking into Google and Yahoo is just one more clue that we live in a time of unprecedented surveillance. The Patriot Act and other laws have given the government virtual free reign to collect whatever information it wants, and the government has taken full advantage of these laws, working to collect and store massive amounts of personal user data.
The government insists that they need to collect this data to protect us from terrorists. And there is probably some truth to this argument. The question is where to draw the line.
At the very least, shouldn’t we know what the government is collecting on us? With that information we can decide if it’s necessary to give up our inherent right of privacy, or if the government has finally gone too far.