NSA reportedly infiltrated Yahoo!, Google data center links, collected hundreds of millions of user accounts

NSA reportedly infiltrated Yahoo!, Google data center links, collected hundreds of millions of user accounts

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has reportedly been infiltrating the main communications links to data centers operated by Google and Yahoo!, and collected hundreds of millions of user accounts, including those of American citizens. Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani writing for the Washington Post:

According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — ranging from “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.

I'm sure this is a nuanced issue far beyond the understanding of a simple tech blogger like me, but if the accusations are true, it feels like a violation so deep, so profound, that I lack sufficient literary skills to express it. I can only hope and wish that, 20 years from now, we look back at this as the dark ages of privacy rights. The alternative is simply too terrifyingly palling to even contemplate.

Source: Washington Post

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

NSA reportedly infiltrated Yahoo!, Google data center links, collected hundreds of millions of user accounts


Since no one would gonna get hurt, they deserve this kind of action for the sake of the freedom of millions of innocent American's personal information. Evils do not deserve sympathy or the easy way!

The problem Rene is that so many will just sit back and say, "well if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide." Which I call a crock of #$%^. Whether I have anything to hide or not, the last people I would trust are a government branch. We are getting worse than the Great Firewall of China.

"In a country born of the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than privacy" - The West Wing, 1999.


Justice Brandeis (before he sat on the Supreme Court) wrote of nearly all our rights being derived from a fundamental "right to be let alone." If that right is not respected, other intrusions upon rights can - must - be expected.


For the TL;DR crowd, the Wikpedia link is helpful, both summarizing the definitions and reasonable exceptions Brandeis wrote:

This tends to be me - and I worry about myself sometimes.

Even so, the only "real" difference it seems we can make is to stop using the tech. Kind of like gasoline vs. any other fuel type, the only way realitively fast and permanent change will be made is for all consumption to instantly stop until signed and sealed change is implemented. But, of course, in reality, these kinds of changes will never happen, and yet, it's really the only way.

not sure what history you're reading rene but tyranny needs to be crushed under the heels of lyberty. liberty isn't won by singing and dancing.

Awe, man! I bet that means they swiped my super-secret recipe for... [censored by the NSA].

Sent from the iMore App

Yeh, if it's all boy scouts club.. humans in general boy scouts we are not. All it takes is a few black hats, a little greed, and someone from the inside the NSA to use and abuse their access and your info.. Your credit cards, SSN, your daily habits, your wife and kids daily habits.. they could target anyone. Make no mistake.. it's not just browsing habits they are collecting.

I'd say you're in the Unicorns and puffy clouds of delight zone right now bud.

Looks more like a photo representing "security" to me rather than just a photo of an iPhone. BTW, many people use Yahoo and/or Google services on their iPhone…so it's fitting.

That is like saying those that fought for civil rights were criminals because they chose to challenge that which was unjust. Care to go to the back of the bus Ivavila? So Deep Throat shouldn't have told about watergate?

Guilty/not guilty, every action has a consequence wether right or wrong/popular or not. But you are right, maybe my comment above was too black & white.

Note: I like the back of the bus. Thats where the hot girls are.

Peaceful protests are much more effective. If we could get a majority of users to log out of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. and refuse to use their services for 6-24 hours the economic impact on the companies would be such that their lawyers would be in court actively fighting the NSA, instead of just rolling over.

This right here is something we can actually do that is peaceful and can have a huge impact.
Yet here I am, afraid of my own government that by me typing this simple statement, I would be placed on some black list somewhere as a threat. This is what these laws do and when privacy to express dissent is stifled, that is when truly horrible events will take place and those began a long time when we the people started to fight amongst ourselves instead of an over reaching government.

However, all it takes is one person to start such a movement and others will follow. Look to history for great examples of individual men and women that overcame tyranny and fought for civil rights that today we are glad to just give up.

Let's start the movement. What day would have the biggest impact?

Someone whom is more versed in social media, unlike myself, please start a reddit post and hopefully we the people will start to stand up and respect ourselves and protect the future that we leave for our kids and their kids.

That must be what cold war Soviet Russians said to their defectors. "Are you guys terrorists. Whats wrong with some government spying and control. What do you have to hide. Why are you leaving." Anyone else alarmed that now people have to defect from America? Arent we the country people came to to escape controlling governments? So how are the actions of our govt different from cold war Russia or China with its citizens?
If we turn into what our "enemies" used to be then we are no better then they were.

And Americans ask me why I do not want to move there after some-supposedly-higher salary... but I never cared for DDR or the Soviet Union either, so go figure.

I have no doubt that well minded individuals in many data centers are doing everything they can to secure our private data from any and all intrusions, foreign and domestic.

The NSA is protecting us by stealing our information before outside threats can... Not that I have any threatening information to steal or hide, but it's the principal of the matter.

Sent from the iMore App

NSA isn't protecting anyone. Yes, preventing another terrorist attack is their justification, but they had all this data months prior to the Boston Marathon bombing and did them no good. On the other hand, any financial losses to US and/or UK companies and our overall economy might make the data mining a defacto act of economic terrorism.

I've been thinking about relocating, but I'm scared my terrible high school French would only get me booted from the "Great White North".

Sent from the iMore App

Couldn't agree more Rene. Over here (in the UK), the govt. are trying not to say anything at all which just makes them appear doubly guilty. They are in just as deep as the US. I guess they're using slightly different surveillance techniques and sharing EVERYTHING with the US. The scale of what's going on defies belief and worst of all, we're paying for ours/yours/the world's surveillance with our taxes. What a disgrace on our supposedly world leading democracies.

Is this a surprise to anyone?!? Nothing on the internet is private. Especially to the US Government we have now.

Sent from the iMore App

I am an American. I do not want my government watching my every move. However, I do want my government taking reasonable and necessary steps to protect us from what are real and significant threats to our security.

During a 22-year career in the U.S. Navy, I worked for NSA in various locales. Believe that or don't believe it; it matters not to me. But here's a fact: Unless you are intent on harming citizens of the United States or are associated with those who are, NSA does not care about your texts and emails. This may be hard for some to hear amidst all the wild-eyed caterwauling, but within the scope of the agency's mission, you are insignificant. Absent evidence that you are a valid threat to the security of Americans, NSA has neither the need nor the ability to dedicate scarce and costly resources to read your texts or emails or listen to your phone calls. Let's end the mass delusion that we are all likely targets of our intelligence agencies.

Regarding the comments about bombing the NSA data center and bringing the RPG's: I understand that reaction at a visceral level but such bombastic (pun not intended) rhetoric does nothing useful.

Regarding the comment that said, in essence, "NSA didn't stop the Boston bombings, so let's shut them down:" When NSA (or Australia's DSD or Britain's GCHQ or Canada's CBNRC) stop a terrorist attack as a result of communications intelligence, they do not issue a press release. If they wish to see future intelligence successes, the methods by which the intelligence is gained must be protected. The inability to crow about successes is a necessary aspect of the business. When the combined efforts of analysts, operators and cyber folks stop a planned attack, those involved do not conduct interviews on the national news networks. They quietly go home and carry on what is in all likelihood a life similar to the rest of us. There are no parades when the spooks do a good job.

Mr. Snowden now cowers in Russia because he knows he has betrayed the legitimate efforts of good people.