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Google's Eric Schmidt calls NSA's spying 'outrageous'

The search giant's executive chairman lashes out at the NSA's alleged spying on Google data centers in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Detail of an internal "NSA presentation slide" published by the Washington Post. The sketch shows where the public Internet meets the private cloud maintained by Google and points out that the data within the cloud is unencrypted (though Google is now working to encrypt such information).
The Washington Post

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is none too happy over reports that the National Security Agency may have snooped on Google's data centers.

"It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true," Schmidt told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday. "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."

A story published last week by the Washington Post said that the NSA had secretly gained access to the private networks connecting the global data centers of Google and Yahoo. Through a program dubbed MUSCULAR, the agency was able to grab customer data held by the two companies, the Post said, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as well as unnamed "knowledgeable officials."

The NSA has since denied the report, saying that "the Washington Post's assertion that we use Executive Order 12333 collection to get around the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and FAA 702 is not true" and that "the assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons' data from this type of collection is also not true."

Schmidt did use the phrase "if that's true" in lashing out against the alleged snooping but told the Journal that "the Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it's perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come."

The Google exec also criticized the NSA's snooping on the phone records of US citizens.

"The National Security Agency allegedly collected the phone records of every phone call of 320 million people in order to identify roughly 300 people who might be a risk," Schmidt said. "That's just bad public policy...and perhaps illegal."

Google and other tech companies sent a letter last Thursday to lead members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to reform the NSA's surveillance programs. Many such companies have been compelled by the US government to grant access to certain data. They've been asking for more freedom in revealing to their customers the specifics on the types of data requests received.