Fact Check: Did CIA And NSA Help Develop Google With Research Grants For Mass Surveillance?

Fact Check: Did CIA And NSA Help Develop Google With Research Grants For Mass Surveillance?


Fact Check: Did CIA And NSA Help Develop Google With Research Grants For Mass Surveillance? Photo by Lucia Macedo on Unsplash

Google has had a cozy relationship with the top U.S. surveillance authority, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — the country’s top information gatherer — dating back to the search engine’s creation.

More than 20 years ago, the U.S. intelligence community worked with Silicon Valley to track citizens in cyberspace. It has been proven that some of the research that eventually led to Google’s creation was funded and coordinated by a research group established by the U.S. intelligence community to develop techniques to track individuals and groups online, Quartz reported.

To develop mass domestic spying applications, the intelligence community turned to universities and began funding research during President Bill Clinton’s administration. But the connection between the tech world and government goes back further than this. The Internet in fact was created because of an intelligence effort.

During the 1970s, “the agency responsible for developing emerging technologies for military, intelligence, and national security purposes—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—linked four supercomputers to handle massive data transfers,” Quartz reported.

About a decade later, the program was handed off to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which distributed the network across thousands of universities and then the public. This ultimately created the structure for the World Wide Web.

Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has long suggested that tech companies have helped the government spy on U.S. citizens. 

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Unearthed email exchanges between then-NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt revealed NSA spying.

A June 28, 2012 email from Alexander invited Schmidt to attend a four-hour-long “classified threat briefing” at a “secure facility in proximity to the San Jose, CA airport.”

“The meeting discussion will be topic-specific, and decision-oriented, with a focus on Mobility Threats and Security,” Alexander wrote in the email, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Al Jazeera.

The classified briefing mentioned by Alexander was part of a secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF).

The connection between the NSA and Silicon Valley is more than curious, many felt.

When Google was hacked in December 2009 by Chinese hackers, Google engineers discovered that this was no ordinary hacking campaign.

It turned out to be “a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China,” according to Google. The hackers accessed the password system that allowed Google’s users to sign in to many Google applications at once. When Google searched for evidence of the break-in that it could share with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence authorities, it traced the intrusion back to a server in Taiwan that was presumably under the control of hackers in mainland China, Salon reported.

Google had discovered one of the most extensive campaigns of cyber espionage in U.S. history, and it did so with the help of the U.S. intelligence community.

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The NSA “has no business helping Google secure its facilities from the Chinese and at the same time hacking in through the back doors and tapping the fiber connections between Google base centers,” said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital civil liberties team. “The fact that it’s the same agency doing both of those things is in obvious contradiction and ridiculous.” 

Snowden has said that the cooperation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence community amounts to privacy abuse. 

“These people are engaged in abuse, particularly when you look at Google and Amazon, Facebook and their business model,” Snowden said, according to a CNet report. “And yet every bit of it, they argue, is legal. Whether we’re talking about Facebook or the NSA, we have legalized the abuse of the person through the personal.”