Thursday, 06 April 2017 11:07

Open-source firm MongoDB denies it has ties to CIA

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The company that produces the open source cross-platform document-oriented database MongoDB has denied that it has any direct ties to the CIA, despite the fact that the spy agency's venture capital arm is listed as one of its investors.

Jack Costley, MongoDB Inc's senior communications manager, told iTWire in response to queries that In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture capital arm, was a small investor in MongoDB.

"As a not-for-profit, independent venture capital firm, IQT has invested in hundreds of reputable software companies," Costley said.

"IQT does have its own connections with the CIA and other US government agencies. However, MongoDB has no connection directly to the CIA. To suggest otherwise would be false."

Costley was asked about the CIA connection after iTWire referred the company to a report in India's Economic Times dating back to 2013, wherein it was reported that MongoDB was set to have a role in Aadhar, the Indian government's biometric identity agency, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

"The contract is yet to be announced but what could raise eyebrows is the fact that MongoDB is part-funded by the US' Central Intelligence Agency," the report, dated 3 December 2013, said.

Costley said "The Economic Times article you referenced is from 2013. UIDAI is not a current customer of MongoDB, Inc. and, to the best of our knowledge, no longer uses MongoDB software. If you have any further specific questions regarding an organisation’s use of open-source software, we recommend you contact the parties concerned."

He added that no investors or any other organisations had any influence on, or access to, customer data in MongoDB's projects. "In fact frequently users run MongoDB on their own data centres and MongoDB, Inc., the company, has absolutely no access to it," Costley said.

In-Q-Tel is known to have provided backing for Google co-founder Sergey Brin while he was involved in research prior to starting the search company along with Larry Page.

Connections between spy agencies and software companies is not uncommon in the US; the world's biggest open-source software company Red Hat has contracts with the NSA which uses its enterprise Linux distribution to run software that is used for domestic survbeillance.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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