Gmail users can now look forward to increased protection from the prying eyes of the National Security Agency (NSA) as it adds encryption technology to the service.
This is the latest attempt by Google to strengthen the security aspect of its highly popular email service. In 2010, Google made HTTPS its default connection.
With encryption technology, Gmail is HTTPS-only. The move is a response to a revelation made by NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden revealing that the agency had been secretly accessing the main communication links connecting Yahoo and Google date centers around the world.
Record Tapping Actions
A secret January 9, 2013 check revealed that millions of records were being sent on a daily basis to NSA’s data centers at its Fort Meade, Maryland headquarters from Yahoo and Google internal networks. The NSA uses a project called MUSCULAR as its main tool for exploiting Google and Yahoo data links. It works in collaboration with Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British agency.
In order to tap into the link, both NSA and GCHQ will try to capture sent information between data centers worldwide using fiber optic cables, intercepting the information by tapping through them and by moving them from the “Public Internet” to the “private clouds” operated by Google and Yahoo. This system is responsible for accessing user information for millions of customers. Documents seen by the Washington Post revealed that this information can be seen by intelligence officers in real time.
Outrageous and Illegal
Last November, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt called this alleged snooping operations as “outrageous” and “illegal.” Schmidt has been serving as Google’s chairman for more than ten years now.
“The steps that the organization was willing to do without good judgment to pursue its mission and potentially violate people’s privacy, it’s not OK,” Schmidt said. “The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it’s perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come.”
On Wednesday, a top lawyer from the NSA denied the accusation saying that the data collection had the direct knowledge of Google and Facebook. The lawyer said revealed this to a civil liberties oversight board. He bared that all communications information and metadata collected by the NSA in compliance with the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, whether collected by its internet data-mining program or through
‘upstream’ collection of communications moving across the internet”, had the blessing of Google and Facebook.
The NSA made previous claims that its only target was foreign intelligence value. At the same time, it had the power to request Google access and other tech companies with the help of a court order.
During an on-stage Q&A at the TED conference in Vancouver on Thursday, Google CEO Larry Page denied NSA’s claims saying that it had no knowledge of the agency’s actions and that it was a threat against democracy.
“For me, it’s tremendously disappointing that the government sort of secretly did all these things and didn’t tell us. I don’t think we can have a democracy if we’re having to protect you and our users from the government for stuff that we never had a conversation about.”