As reports warn of growing threats to cyber security, the fiercely independent Google calls on the nation's largest intelligence agency for help. Privacy advocates, stay tuned.
In a deal sure to raise questions about privacy and the role of government agencies in hack attacks, Google and the National Security Agency (NSA) are about to pair up in the name of protection, according to The Washington Post.
The deal – still being finalized – would task the NSA with analyzing the notorious Operation Aurora, an orchestrated attack on some 30 companies including Google. The agency would also guide Google on how to safeguard itself in the future.
Google and the NSA declined comment on the pact. But sources told the Post that the partnership was being designed not to compromise users' privacy – that Google might, for example, share information about the codes used in the attack, but not about compromised data.
The deal comes amid reports warning of increasing threats of cyber attack – and as government and business struggle to strike a balance between safety and privacy.
"Acting independently, neither the U.S. government nor the private sector can fully control or protect the country's information infrastructure," Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday.
Calling the Google attacks "a wake-up call" to those who haven't taken threats to cyber security seriously, Blair praised the company and others like it who promptly report attacks. They "greatly help us to understand and address the range of cyber threats," he said.
Google isn't the first company to turn to the NSA for help – an NSA spokeswoman confirmed the agency works "with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates" – but the search engine's sheer size and global influence makes its call for help noteworthy.
"When you rise to the level of Google... you're looking at a company that has taken great pride in its independence," Matthew Aid, author of NSA history "The Secret Sentry," told the Post. "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."
What do you think? Is it appropriate for the government's intelligence agency to work so closely with Google on security?
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.