Internet Law

Google Seeks Help from Spy Agency on Hack Attacks, Raising Privacy Concerns


As malicious cyber attacks apparently are occurring more frequently and with more sophistication than ever before, a search engine giant has turned to a U.S. spy agency for help in dealing with a major suspected China-based hacking effort in December.

But the move by Google Inc. to work with the National Security Agency to address the claimed intrusion into its computer network—as well as those of some 30 other companies—has raised concerns about unwanted government knowledge of individual users’ personal information, according to the New York Times.

“Google and NSA are entering into a secret agreement that could impact the privacy of millions of users of Google’s products and services around the world,” says executive director Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. His Washington-based policy group sued the NSA today, seeking information about the agency’s role in cybersecurity-related surveillance.

The pact between Google and NSA was earlier reported by the Washington Post. The Post says the agreement, which is still being negotiated, calls for the NSA to help analyze what happened with the goal of successfully defending against future cyber attacks.

Senior counsel Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy & Technology tells the Post there is statutory authority for companies to share information with the United States government in order to protect their property rights.

According to the Times, the cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the NSA is authorized by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986. It permits the government to enter into a written agreement to work with a private company on a specific project intended to promote the commercialization of government-developed technology.

Earlier related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “China Cyber-Attack May Have Targeted Law Firm & Other Companies, Too”

ABAJournal.com: “Fed Chief Bernanke Was ID Theft Victim”

Washington Post: “Identity thieves use sophisticated techniques to steal money”

Updated at 6:26 p.m. to link to additional coverage.

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