Google Opens Up Some More: The 'Secret' Computer System It Uses To Give Info To NSA Is Secure FTP

from the oh-no,-the-terrorists-will-know-that-now! dept

Google is continuing to open up about the supposed “secret” program by which it hands data over to the NSA that has been subject to so much attention over the last week. And, once again, the story seems to be less than what was originally reported. Google’s now said that when it receives a valid FISA order for information, the “secret” computer system it uses to get the required info to the NSA isn’t some crazy server setup or dropbox… but secure FTP.

Instead the company transmits FISA information the old fashioned way: by hand, or over secure FTP.

“When required to comply with these requests, we deliver that information to the US government — generally through secure FTP transfers and in person,” Google spokesman Chris Gaither told Wired. “The US government does not have the ability to pull that data directly from our servers or network.”

However, the company does say that the government has asked for more, but that Google has refused.

“We refuse to participate in any program — for national security or other reasons — that requires us to provide governments with access to our systems or to install their equipment on our networks,” he said. “We have been asked to do things in the past and we have declined.”

It’s increasingly beginning to appear like the terminology used in the leaked PowerPoint presentation was not as clear as it should be, concerning the level of the NSA’s integration with Google (and, perhaps, other companies).

This does not mean that there aren’t significant questions about what kinds of data and how much data is requested via FISA orders, but that puts the issue right back to the government. The specifics of how tech companies are handing legally required data over to the NSA seems like much less of an issue than the breadth of the government’s requests (and the non-PRISM request for all phone call records).

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Comments on “Google Opens Up Some More: The 'Secret' Computer System It Uses To Give Info To NSA Is Secure FTP”

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44 Comments
FM Hilton (profile) says:

Fishing expeditions

I cannot believe for the life of me why the NSA needs all that information-there cannot be 200,000,000 people in the world who are terrorists..and that the NSA has adequate reasons for the information.

I believe that the system should just be shut down as they are incapable of processing the information or understanding it. It appears that they just gather it because they can.

I guess it’s like a winning hand at poker, or perhaps a case of potential blackmail-“We’ve got the goods on you..now behave before we do something with them.”

It’s still illegal (even if they don’t think so).

bill (profile) says:

Re: Fishing expeditions

This infringement into our personal lives allows the federal government pinpoint anyone with political views that differ from their own agenda. Then they can proceed to destroy you through the use of the IRS, EPA or any number of programs that they have designed to track and control the free citizens of this country.Where once we were allowed to speak our own personal views , now they threaten prosecution and label free speech as anti government views. The Constitutional guidelines that all government employee,s are suppose to adhere to are very clear, yet the people we elect to protect us and defend this Constitution are the ones trying their hardest to dismantle and destroy it. Its time to hold all these politicians accountable for these treasonous attacks against our nation and our Constitution.

TTL says:

ftp

The ftp access is the major problem here. The nsa records the entire server as a system admin per FISA requests for all user data while forbidding any company from talking about what they are disclosing. The courts demanded an independent terminal for access and ability to look up user data by email address. The fact that any nsa agent or independent contractor with clearance can read what we type at any given time seems in conflict with the spirit of the 4th amendment in the same way slavery seemed to be in conflict with the spirit of a free republic. The ‘it keeps us safe’ crowd should answer this question: 3,000 died on 9/11. 10,000 die each year on average from drunken driving. Police checkpoints at on ramps of every highway could greatly curb that number. You are far likelier to be killed by a drunk driver than a terrorist over your lifetime even if a terrorist group successfully detonated a uranium based nuclear weapon in a major city. So should police patrol every highway on ramp? That would certainly be more effective than the nsa program in saving lives, and should you favor safety over liberty that should be a position you support for intellectual consistency.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Re: ftp

The per-capita death toll from guns now exceeds per-capita death toll from traffic accidents.

Traffic is highly monitored by governments (directional signs, police monitoring, traffic lights, “red light” cameras, multiple levels of licensing, speed limits, alcohol check points, age requirements, safety requirements mandated, yearly inspections, etc etc etc), and because of it the death tolls have been dropping considerably.

You’re right, protection from “terrorist” can be measured in 100’s per year (IF you include domestic terrorist) while traffic/guns are measured in 10,000s per year (about 30,000 each).

The same politicians that want to keep you safe from terrorist will not touch the 2nd amendment with a 10′ pole. If we had 30,000 deaths per year from terrorist, I would probably relent on giving the NSA more power to monitor my email. But clearly (from my perspective) legally owned guns are a significantly larger problem than the US being attacked by terrorist.

-CF

Ask your self why says:

Freedom

What happened to America? Where did we go wrong as society that by fear mongring n scaring people we make out stupid dishonest government police us and control us. Have u ever made a mistake ? Government is compile of people like you and I and we pay for them. So they would say n do anything to keep their job n not to loos the allocation of money that they have. They are people like you and I . The lie, cheat, n are not trust worthy. I wonder will we ever have a revolution in America or they wanna preoccupy us with stupidity n porn n none sense so a group of people can police majority .
Wake up America wake up !!!think of ur future ur children’s future.
Please wake up n make a different …

Patrick says:

… so an anonymous Google “company spokesman” now assures us that there’s nothing at all sinister about Google’s NSA coordination — it’s just simple FTP & snailmail, under strict ‘court order’.

Very convincing. (not !)

First, due to the Top_Secret classification of any NSA/Google taps — only a couple of Google employees would have the formal government clearances to know exactly what was going on. A company PR guy (“spokesman”) would never get such clearances — and would be clueless.
Quite likely that the Google CEO does not have the necessary clearances either.

NSA is pretty good at keeping secrets, despite the recent, very rare disclosures. Google “spokesmen” have almost zero credibility.

Secondly, the FISA court oversight is a total rubber-stamp … in the few cases where NSA even bothers to check with them. NSA does whatever it wants 99% of the time; there are no serious legal controls on its collection activities. The 1975 Senator Church Committee in Congress detailed the outrageous 30 year history of NSA’s illegal domestic spying.

The mere existence of NSA and the FISA secret court are blatan
tly non-Constitutional from the getgo.

And I don’t trust Google at all, regardless of NSA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am reluctant to use “99%” (or whatever is the actual number) as proof that the court is a rubber stamp. First, the number does not reflect how many of the 99% were approved only after court direction that the original submission required substantive changes before they would be in a condition for approval. Maybe only a very few fall in this category, but the 99% gives no insight. Second, some familiar with the actual workings of the FISA court posit that by and large only “sure winners” are being submitted to the court for approval, which would, of course, account in part for the high percentage of approvals. These same persons posit that the petitioners are being much to conservative in order to avoid denials, and that perhaps they should pursue a more aggressive stance. Of course, it this was done the 99% would drop precipitously.

out_of_the_blue says:

Another day of masnicking for Google.

Masnicking defined by Glenn Greenwald: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

At least the overnight (by my time) commentors are pretty uniformly skeptical of Google. Far short of what should be, but it’s a start.

Now, why does Mike keep running these pieces that merely repeat Google’s statements? It’s big enough to take care of itself, but Mike has run at least three pieces specifically on Google — not on Facebook or the others named so far, oddly enough.

Mike has ZERO evidence whether Google was, is, or will be telling the truth. This is just plain SLANTED to fit Mike’s pro-Google position: “continuing to open up about the supposed “secret” program … And, once again, the story seems to be less than what was originally reported.”

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
http://techdirt.com/
Where Mike’s “no evidence of real harm” means he wants to let secretive mega-corporations continue to grow.
01:10:05[b-101-5]

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Another day of masnicking for Google.

@ “What’s your evidence? Mississipi’s Attorney-General saying Google is guilty?

Your evidence isn’t worth the atoms it’s made of.”


Sheesh. What’s my evidence that Mike has no evidence? The total lack of evidence. I ain’t got an atom of it.

Mike just has opinion and his pro-Google bias is clear. See my newer comment for more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Another day of masnicking for Google.

Woah, actually saw this before people started clicking report.

You’re right that we should be skeptical of Google’s statement – see Patrick’s comment above for good reasons – but your off-topic, “out of the blue” (see what I did there?) allegations of pro-Google bias on Mike’s part makes you look bad. No wonder people report your comments on sight..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Another day of masnicking for Google.

Masnicking defined by Glenn Greenwald: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

At least the overnight (by my time) commentors are pretty uniformly skeptical of Google. Far short of what should be, but it’s a start.

Now, why does Mike keep running these pieces that merely repeat Google’s statements? It’s big enough to take care of itself, but Mike has run at least three pieces specifically on Google — not on Facebook or the others named so far, oddly enough.

Mike has ZERO evidence whether Google was, is, or will be telling the truth. This is just plain SLANTED to fit Mike’s pro-Google position: “continuing to open up about the supposed “secret” program … And, once again, the story seems to be less than what was originally reported.”

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
http://techdirt.com/
Where Mike’s “no evidence of real harm” means he wants to let secretive mega-corporations continue to grow.
01:10:05[b-101-5]

This is just Masnick licking the hand that feeds him.

Amir (profile) says:

Public Relations Bonanza! :)

Every information we put out there on internet (via E-mail, blog post, facebook, twitter, etc) can be used against our own selves, with or without our knowledge or consent. In other words, we are our own worst enemy if we can’t keep our own secrets and trust someone else out of our own selves to keep our secrets. Having said that, an era of fear-mongering is coming to an end and I see a hope that new business organizations (NEVER google, facebook, apple, twitter, yahoo, microsoft etc) will respect their own privacy statements and applicable laws. Cause as per the words of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) “The believer is not stung from (the same) hole twice”.

out_of_the_blue says:

Excusing Google for PAST actions won't prevent WORSE.

All Mike is doing is EXCUSING Google. But that simply guarantees MORE and WORSE craven behavior in future.

Of course, some will say that the Patriot Act forced Google to go along with crimes. — No, Google went along with crimes because wanted to. It’s been part of the intelligence agencies right from its start. The notion it was “obeying the law” isn’t valid: clearly Google execs were and are troubled by the requirement to be complicit in crimes, SO they should have done as Snowden did: GO PUBLIC WITH WHAT NSA IS DOING. But instead, though in far better position to resist, they went along. That’s a fact.

Google’s statements now are just attempted excuses for not behaving morally back when tested. — But Qwest objected. I don’t want to mix that in because think Qwest committed other crimes, but nonetheless, there’s a contemporary and comparable alternative to just going along with demands that at first glance everyone knows are at best questionable. Google never made the question public. It just went along.

And, no, doesn’t matter that the milieu back then included rampant panic. — Nor that statute is written so that corporations must serve shareholder interests and make a profit: THAT is just circularly excusing corporations because The Rich have written statutes to serve their interests and not the public interest. — NO EXCUSES ARE VALID. Google FAILED.

Having failed the prior test, we have zero reason to suppose that in future Google will ever take the right course.

It’s TOUGH LUCK that Google was put on the spot. Life isn’t fair, not even to corporations and over-paid executives. But they did not serve the public by giving in to illegal unconstitutional demands from a spy agency.

SO if Mike were really interested in this mega-corporation ever serving the public, he’d criticize it for FAILING, not excuse it.

Nomad says:

So much hate on google

Wise up people…out of all the companies out there, google has been one of the most outspoken proponents for government transparency. They regularly refuse to send FISA orders, and often request another judge demand the information released. They also have regularly pushed back against the abuses of FISA by the NSA, FBI and whoever else can get these orders court approved. The NSA is 100% the only person to blame in this and what they are doing is nothing new. ECHELON is the program that makes all the rest possible, and it’s been running for 60 years by intercepting data straight off the trunk lines. Wise up or shut up!

privacyfrauds says:

Re: So much hate on google

Google has been pushing how private and secure your data was in their hands for quite sometime now (not that most of believed the hype)so yes Google/ Verizon is guilty as is anyone else who turned over user data without a fight , they could have taken the Bradley Manning approach and wikileaked a very long time ago .. makes you wonder how much money they made on this deal.

Stubinz says:

“It’s increasingly beginning to appear like the terminology used in the leaked PowerPoint presentation was not as clear as it should be, concerning the level of the NSA’s integration with Google (and, perhaps, other companies).”

Looks like fanboy will always put Google’s word above all. Not very surprising.

Malor (profile) says:

You're blowing it, here....

Mr. Masnick, there’s one thing you absolutely must remember, whenever you’re writing these articles.

Google, and any other civilian entity, is legally required to lie about its involvement in these programs.

Their execs can be jailed for long periods if they come clean and tell the truth about classified projects.

You can’t take anyone at their word here. You can’t. You have to see the physical evidence, or you have to just assume that it’s exactly the way it says it is on the slides.

The slides are a form of evidence, truth telling within the agency. All other verbal communication to non-privileged participants (ie, us) should automatically be assumed untrue. It HAS to be untrue, by law.

It’s not a matter of if they are lying, but where.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Questioning Google's sincerity

Google to Feds: Please Let Us Talk About Spying [UPDATE: Facebook Too]: “You have to wonder, then, why Google has never tried to change this law, when there have been opportunities?these FISA amendments have faced reauthorization every year since their introduction in 2008. Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, and HP have all spent money trying to influence FISA. But despite, according to federal disclosure data, spending over $44 milion on general lobbying to date and enjoying 37 employees on federal advisory committees, Google has not once lobbied regarding FISA when it’s faced congressional reauthorization.”

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Questioning Google's sincerity

A Security Scholar Talks About the NSA Scandal’s Private Side –: “[Private companies are] perfectly OK with sharing information, and they do so constantly. But they need some kind of alibi to do so. They need a scapegoat like ‘the government made us do it’ or ‘we did our best to anonymize your data and someone hacked us, and it wasn?t quite as anonymous as we thought it to be.'”

richard (profile) says:

revolution time!!

personally i don’t believe anything coming from the government or coming from any of the company’s involved. i personally think it is time for another revolution the government has grown to big everything is all about them. they monitor every second of our lives, what did we do to deserve this. the government needs to be put in it’s place. we should not have to live in this type of world

The Committee says:

Just quit it

The issue isn’t and has never been HOW they are getting the data from these tech companies, it’s that they ARE getting the data from these tech companies.

The immediate mass-response of, “they don’t have direct access to our servers” was designed by our government’s marketing people to mislead and confuse most Americans into believing the whole thing is being blown out of proportion.

It is unfortunate that this important issue is being diluted and at the same perfect time used as a distraction from the IRS scandal.

Coyne Tibbets says:

Weasel words: No hook in our system

Google’s statements can basically be summarized as follows: “NSA has no hook in our system; instead we routinely extract a monster file from our system and send it to them.”

So it’s technically true that there’s no direct hook into Google, but all my data gets sent to NSA anyway. “A difference which makes no difference is no difference at all.” (William James)

Undoubtedly the other companies who denied direct connections are weaseling wording in exactly the same way; except, of course, leaving out the admission about the monster file they’re all sending.

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