Google Engineers reply to NSA: “all too often, laws are for the little people”

Nov 6, 2013
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Google Engineers reply to NSA: “all too often, laws are for the little people”

There are a couple of Google engineers working for the Google security team replying in kind to the NSA and the GCHQ (on the other side of the ocean) regarding the most recent round of Edward Snowden-leaked documents on government snooping into Google and Yahoo cloud networks. What you'll find is a rather everyman-level bit of talk that essentially anyone can understand. Per Google's Mike Hearn: "We designed this system to keep criminals out. There's no ambiguity here."

You'll find an October 30th article from the Washington Post showing how Yahoo and Google had been infiltrated by NSA and GCHQ agents. This digital intrusion is described in a collection of slides captured by Snowden from the NSA and shared with the Washington Post. You can see the full document at the post as well - it's currently titled The Cryptologic Provider of Intelligence from Global High-Capacity Telecommunications Systems.

The first of two personal statements made by Google security engineers comes from one Brandon Downey. Here you'll see the USA-based side of things, in brief. For the full text you'll want to check his Google+ post from the 30th of October.

"I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to keep Google's users safe and secure from the many diverse threats Google faces.

I've seen armies of machines DOS-ing Google. I've seen worms DOS'ing Google to find vulnerabilities in other people's software. I've seen criminal gangs figure out malware. I've seen spyware masquerading as toolbars so thick it breaks computers because it interferes with the other spyware.

I've even seen oppressive governments use state sponsored hacking to target dissidents.

But even though we suspected this was happening, it still makes me terribly sad. It makes me sad because I believe in America.

...

But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google -- one of the greatest things to arise from the internet -- seeing this, well, it's just a little like coming home from War with Sauron, destroying the One Ring, only to discover the NSA is on the front porch of the Shire chopping down the Party Tree and outsourcing all the hobbit farmers with half-orcs and whips." - Brandon Downey

Next you'll see another rather pointed reply to these activities by Google security engineer working for the company in the UK. You'll find the response to be rather similar, giving a black-and-white perspective on the situation.

"We designed this system to keep criminals out. There's no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we've got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.

Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement, we therefore do what internet engineers have always done - build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined.

Thank you Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most interesting revelation all summer." - Mike Hearn

Have a peek at other recent revelations and replies on the NSA, the GCHQ, programs like PRISM, Edward Snowden, and everything in-between. Stick around as we continue to see the seemingly endless flow of information from Snowden on national security and the perceived perversions of privacy therein.


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