Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce PRISM: Google tries to cover its backside

PRISM: Google tries to cover its backside

As the fallout continues from the revelations that America's National Security Agency has been spying on the populace at large and knows everything down to the brand of underwear its citizens wear, the companies which were named as co-operating with the NSA are now trying to spin themselves out of the muck.

Foremost among these is Google which has always tried to project itself as some kind of different entity, different from the average corporate that bows and scrapes when government authority asserts itself. (The NSA spying program is known as PRISM.)

And so, yesterday in the US, Google wrote a letter to the US attorney-general Eric Holder and the FBI director Robert Mueller, and made it public.

In it the so-called search company (more on that some other day), tries to dissociate itself from the rape of the public that has taken place by seeking permission to publicise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests that were made of it.

"Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the US government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue," Google's chief legal officer David Drummond wrote.

"However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation."

Drummond continued: "We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.

"Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.

"Google has nothing to hide."

When I read that last sentence, I burst out laughing.

This is the same company whose chairman, Eric Schmidt, once said that if one had nothing to hide, one need not be afraid of snooping. This was at a time when Google was under fire for filming in public places without authorisation.

Of course, Schmidt would not agree if he was asked to follow his own dictum and appear nude on national television in the US - after all, he has nothing to hide, isn't it?

This is one of numerous American companies that is hiding its earnings in tax havens so as to avoid paying its fair share of tax. Nothing to hide, indeed.

Google's company motto is "Do No Evil" - in other words, it is on the side of the consumer. If only.

Corporations will roll over and play dead if any government asks them to; I have seen the extent to which American companies kowtow to officialdom in the Middle East where there are dictatorships in power.

Google is no different. It is as much a toady of the American government as Microsoft, Yahoo!, and the rest.

Drummond, please spare us this BS.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.