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Google and the CIA? 234

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bobbing-for-scandal dept.
snottgoblin writes "DailyTech has an article suggesting that Google might be involved in a partnership with the CIA. The article also quotes a former CIA officer that Google's refusal to comply with the DOJ over privacy issues was 'a little hypocritical [...] because they were heavily in bed with the Central Intelligence Agency.'" Because I'm sure no one would go on the air and try to drum up a scandal aimed at the biggest target they can find.
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Google and the CIA?

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:08PM (#16678379) Homepage Journal
    I would not be surprised in such a relationship as there has been a collaborative arrangement at least going back to the Google Earth project. For instance, when Google Earth was demoed to the folks at the NRO and NIMA, there was a collective smacking of foreheads followed by a long silence as they all realized that this was an easy way to represent data using superimposable layers. Soon after, agreements were reached with Google for technology development in exchange for funding and a significant amount of space in the South Bay area.

    The fact that Google is very good at their core market (search engines and relational databases) and is aggressively entering new markets in a variety of fields, should make them an attractive partner for many federal agencies that cannot seem to get their IT $#!^ together (I'm talking to you, Robert Mueller).

  • "Valuable Insight" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MLopat (848735) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:09PM (#16678431) Homepage
    If something is worth posting, I don't see why anyone would immediately discredit the article with a comment like "Because I'm sure no one would go on the air and try to drum up a scandal aimed at the biggest target they can find. "

    Let people RTFA and discuss it in the comments.
    • Absolutely.
      • by Shakrai (717556)
        What's funny is that if you take the article and replace 'Google' with 'Microsoft' or 'Verizon' then I find it highly unlikely that the editor would have made that comment. After all, Google can do no evil whilest all other large companies are clearly out to screw the consumer out of their god given right to free software/broadband/beer.
    • by deblau (68023)
      Let people RTFA and discuss it in the comments.
      You must be new here.
  • From TFA: "I'm hoping they'll work their way out of it and basically cut that relationship off."

    Good luck. Nobody ever really leaves The Company.

    • by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:15PM (#16678567) Homepage Journal
      Good luck. Nobody ever really leaves The Company.

      Agency.... It is "The Agency", and yes, you can leave the Agency. People do it all the time. The thing you have to remember is that the CIA is a huge organization with most folks being support personnel for the large numbers of analysts. There is a small group in R&D, and an even smaller group in direct operations.

      • by dschuetz (10924) <slash@@@david...dasnet...org> on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:25PM (#16678755) Homepage
        ....and yes, you can leave the Agency. People do it all the time.

        Yeah, but you gotta live in a weird village, drive around in golf carts, and wear a big "#6"-type pin on your lapel.
        • Don't you just hate those big beach ball
        • by BWJones (18351) *
          Yeah, but you gotta live in a weird village, drive around in golf carts, and wear a big "#6"-type pin on your lapel..

          Oh my. That *is* funny.

          Somebody mod this up as funny! I have mod points, but have already posted in this discussion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rubycodez (864176)
      Sure, you can leave The Company. Oh, you meant alive . (cue Three Days of the Condor theme)
    • OK, so I pressed the submit button without previewing.

      The original point was this: if the CIA wants a relationship with Google, then they're going to have one, whether or not Google wants it. Google is hiring people by the busload, people who are young, smart, independent, perhaps idealistic, and like cool toys. How hard would it be to find a few that could be co-opted?

      Besides, nobody really leaves The Company.

      • by ScentCone (795499)
        How hard would it be to find a few that could be co-opted?

        If, by "co-opted," you mean, "smart enough to realize that better in-house search tech helping analysts at the agency is actually a very important thing," then no doubt, yes, they'll find some. The ones that are idealogically opposed to that agency improving its ability to render accurate intel for policy makers will avoid that sort of work - even though doing so is sort of self-destructive. If they'd rather work on better code to more accurately
        • by buswolley (591500)
          I think you mean: The CIA as sent in agents to infiltrate Google as new hires. You know, like they do with news papers and magazines like Time.
    • Ya know, there was a time when private enterprise and gov'nt could actually work together for good. We all benefit from the work of DARPA, why shouldn't things go the other way too? No-evil-wise, of course. (a man can dream...) oh - posted using opera mini... :)
  • Certainly I wouldn't be surpised if the CIA is buying technology from Google -- be it search technology, information presentation technology (Google Earth), etc. What's wrong with that? The article contained no indications that the Google was providing the CIA with information about users!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El Torico (732160)
      This is from the article -

      From reports, Steele did not bring evidence to light in order to back up his claims,...

      This article is just rumor and speculation. It is quite likely that Google is selling technology to the CIA, and that isn't a problem. Anyone with the cash can buy a Google Search Appliance.

  • snottgoblin writes ...
    ScuttleMonkey writes ... Because I'm sure no one would go on the air and try to drum up a scandal aimed at the biggest target they can find.

    I'm one to talk, but do screen names like that instill confidence in readers that more than just shit disturbing is going on by the writer?
  • TFA does not give any details as to what Google and the CIA are doing, if anything. It could be that Google is helping them filter information (not necessarily providing it) or build a new IT infastructure. We simply don't know what's going on.

    The article certainly seems to have it's own opinion on it, though.
    =Smidge=
    • by tehwebguy (860335)
      maybe it was just an informational seminar instructing the old timers on how to use google to find info on people. who wants to bet it is better than whatever system they are using..
    • well we certainly know that former employees always speak glowingly about their former employers unless they are throughly evil, it's just who's version of who that evil that gets confusing.
  • Not surprised at all (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mariner28 (814350)
    Google has posted openings requiring US govt. secret and SCI clearances for several years. This issue was raised back in 2001 or so...
  • the article has no real content; anyone have any more info on this? it seems like it's pure speculation with reference to an unverifiable source.. hang on.. yeah, that's CIA involvement all right.
  • as a Google employee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As a slightly annoyed Google employee (with a good knowledge of proxies!) I can confirm that, although the higher-ups try to keep the question unanswered either way, certain TLAs do pretty much have free run of our various tracking databases.

    Note that this applies to national security level stuff, not regular ol' crime and random cases that are actually relatively unimportant despite attracting publicity, but for which it's good PR to make an ostensible public refusal.

    Or, to put it in a Google-favorable lig
    • Um.... Not really. But if they made them go through a bunch of unfavorable publicity every time they wanted something, well, that would make me feel a little better. Funnily enough, I would personally rather Google quit storing the data they have picked up on me without my asking them.
      • by krell (896769)
        "I would personally rather Google quit storing the data they have picked up on me without my asking them."

        Their excuse is that you "ask them" by agreeing to their obscure privacy agreement/etc that nobody ever seeks or our reads. Great point you made anyway. This contradicts "do no evil."
    • "by Anonymous Coward"
  • To repeat the brilliant Illiad - where do I sign up ? [userfriendly.org]. Don't panic it is only beta [userfriendly.org].

    Jokes aside, it is a company sitting on american soil, why would it be wrong if they actually had a partnership with NSA or CIA. It is their patriotic duty, No ?

    • by geekoid (135745)
      No.
      Doing something for an agency does not automatically make it patriotic.

      But it makes business sense.
    • A real patriot stands up for his people, not the government.

      It's nice when being patriotic means standing with the government, but sometimes true patriots must stand against it.
    • Google is a publicly traded company that specializes in collecting, indexing, storage, and recognizing obscure relationships in information, the CIA is a government agency that does pretty much the same thing. Not to long ago the administration was excoriated over mis-interpreted intel estimates, so a collaboration on where their interests intersect seems natural. Perhaps the CIA is interested in what China doesn't want it's citizens to know.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:18PM (#16678619)
    Google is working with the CIA to overthrow Yahoo and install a puppet regime in South MSN to counter potential communist forces in the north.
  • Why is ScuttleMonkey so skeptical of this story, it seems very likely considering how attractive the raw data-mining power of Google must be to the CIA, especially after the 9/11 Commission Report exposed the incredibly outdated technology [72.14.203.104] they had been using prior to the current WAR ON TERROR (be afraid, be very afraid!).
  • In-con-CEIVE-able! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:25PM (#16678763)
    Gee - no chance that one of the largest and smartest pattern-searching, data-mining, quicky-quicky-lightening-fast-search technology operations on the planet might be asked to provide some expertise or operational help to one of the agencies that needs exactly that kind of horsepower to help keep people from being killed?

    Of course Google has contact with the CIA. And NRO, and NSA, and DIA, and the FBI, and probably most state-level agencies, as well. It would be shocking, really, if they did not.

    And how does Google taking a stand on privacy in any way contradict the vested interest they have in the CIA more effectively sorting through unthinkable amounts of data and drawing better, more useful conclusions? Google is based in the US. When the economy takes a hard hit (as it did following 9/11), Google is hit hard, too. It's perfectly reasonable for them to be both "no evil(tm)" corporate citizens and also help a vital government agency better do what they're supposed to do. You know, the agency that so many people have complained about being unable to effectively sort through lots of information, communicate across agencies, and draw more workable conclusions? How can input from, and influence by Google-type people possibly be a bad thing, in the grand scheme of things?

    The people at the CIA are just people. Google can afford very, very smart people that the agency can only get as consultants, or as hires that aren't worried about what they make. Farming out some high-end IT expertise to an entity that has an enormous profit incentive - in other venues - to be very good at it and competitively innovative is simply good policy.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)
      And how does Google taking a stand on privacy in any way contradict the vested interest they have in the CIA more effectively sorting through unthinkable amounts of data and drawing better, more useful conclusions?
      Because the CIA might want to start sorting through Google's "unthinkable amounts of data" so that they (the CIA) can start "drawing better, more useful conclusions".

      That and the whole secretive thing just seems ripe for abuse.
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Because the CIA might want to start sorting through Google's "unthinkable amounts of data" so that they (the CIA) can start "drawing better, more useful conclusions".

        That and the whole secretive thing just seems ripe for abuse


        Unless the Google people that consult for the agency each come in with a few hundred GB of the google-base in their brains, and have it sucked out using some Star Trek-style bit of tech to dump into the agency's own systems... that's not what we're talking about. Ask around - peo
        • I think the issue that the comment your replying to and indeed the whole article, is not whether they are providing consulting services to the CIA, but whether they are allowing them access to what some might say is the biggest database of internet searches on the planet. Jesus man, if that doesnt make you a bit paranoid you are either the most squeaky clean pro government person ever (possible) or completely inappreciative of what powerful people can do with constant surveillance.

          From the tone of your pare
    • A lot of people view systems as 'people", talking about the government as "THE GOVERNMENT" instead of "OUR GOVERNMENT", a government is a group of people.

      The main reason people are afraid of the CIA is because they don't like secrecy. At the same time, it's obvious why secrecy is essential for national security. Some of our technologies NEED to be secret. If there are nano technology companies wouldnt you rather the CIA keep the most dangerous aspects of it secret? Or do you want terrorists, criminals and p
  • by Petey_Alchemist (711672) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:26PM (#16678781)
    Darnit! I submitted this a few minutes ago, but with this addendum. See what you can make of it. I'm not sure.

    ___________

    That's old news. But this image [waffleimages.com], discovered by a Something Awful forum user [somethingawful.com] in a time of election uncertainty, is new.

    From the post: [somethingawful.com]

    "I was browsing google maps today and came across something a little creepy. I moused over something on the map, and a preview page came up. (This is with a firefox extension that loads a URL you mouseover in a preview box.) It had people's legal names, familiar names, precinct, and political affilations. It seems to have had a lot more information than that, but I didn't scroll.

    Thankfully I took a screenshot when it first happened, becuase I couldn't make it happen again. It's weird how codey the whole thing looks, isn't it? It obviously wasn't meant to be seen by people like me--it looks like it was meant to be parsed by a computer. What kind of database is Google hiding behind its maps? (I don't mean to sound tinfoil here, as this probably isn't some joint Google/NSA operation. I just wonder how they got this information and what they're using it for.)"

    What is Google doing?
  • Why else would they actually archive personally-identifiable information about searches?

  • This is great. I would love to see my country's intelligence agency use some great technology to filter through intelligence streams and all the data they need to mine. What's the problem here?
  • Just partner with it. Somehow the "need to know search" seems to be a classic oxymoron...
  • The website that this information comes from was featured on Ars the other day [arstechnica.com]. As many people pointed out in that discussion. The person making this claim, Alex Jones, also claims 9/11 was a conspiracy and a missile hit the pentagon. Is this really a credible source? sounds about as valid as a random AC troll on slashdot.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      God damn it.

      I didn't get to the original article yet, but now I'm pissed that I read this far down the thread before I found out it was Alex Jones, certifiable nutcase, who was providing the information.

      That said, most of the time I'm unable to muster any logically convincing rebuttal for what he's said, unfortunately. What he says isn't something people want to accept, but it seems difficult not to.
  • by DysenteryInTheRanks (902824) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:51PM (#16679197) Homepage
    I just want to say "thanks" to whoever added the "fud" tag.

    THANKS DUDE!

    I love it when people remember to put this tag on appropriate articles.

    I have often been hard at work in the office some afternoon, or at home on a sunny Saturday morning, thinking to myself, "I'd really like to read some Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. And where better to do so than on Slashdot? If only there were a convient way to browse this FUD all on one easy screen. After all, there is not enough FUD on the Slashdot front page, you really have to look for it."

    But thanks to the "fud" tag in the super-useful Slashdot InfoTagging SystemTM, I don't have to struggle any more to find this FUD!

    What I like even better than the FUD tag is when someone tags an article notfud or "!fud". Because sometimes I want to read stuff that's just not FUD. (Thankfully, I've never seen an article with both the FUD and notfud tags at once.)

    The only thing I like better than the notfud tag are the "yes" and "no" tags. Very useful, for when I need to come up with questions the answer to which is very clearly "yes" or "no."


  • The CIA certainly knows how important the search engines are for
    internet data mining. Back in 1998, Zapata Petroleum (the company
    started by George H. Bush in 1953 which has been thought by some to be
    a CIA front) tried to purchase the 'Excite' search engine website but
    was turned [internetnews.com]
    down.

  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lewp (95638) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @04:00PM (#16679399) Journal
    I'm a big Google fanboy. I think their services are great, and I trust them with my personal email. But the summary for this item is really a load of horseshit. If this had been about Microsoft or any other company that draws the Slashdot hivemind's ire the story would have been immediately accepted as gospel.

    But since it's Google the claims are dismissed immediately as a publicity stunt.

    Fuck you, editors.
  • Government spooks collaborating with industry titan to subterfuge... sounds like a plot from the X-Files... conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen.

    Human psychology likes gossip, which is why this site even exists...

    Our government is largely incompetent when it comes to tech savviness. Furthermore, I don't buy that any US agency involved with national (in)security is covertly leveraging a US tech company like Google. Overtly is another matter. If it was an old DoD contractor that's another story, but Google,
  • It would be pretty strange if the CIA used Alta Vista when they wanted to search the web.
  • This allegation had been raised [google-watch.org] by the anti-Google camp before.
  • Someone forgot to explain, why such a partnership is a bad thing... Or is that simply on of the Slashdot's of axioms?

  • The DOJ request was very broad, and as we've seen from another company-not-to-be-named, such data does allow the identification of search habits for many regular citizens.

    However, a CIA request could have been for searches by specific suspects (read: known terrorists) or maybe a run of a datamining program that could catch relations between terrorist sites in Google's database, thus having nothing to do with actual searches by people.

    I have a problem with any search engine complying with the former, but not
  • "
    By ZmaxDP on 10/31/2006 10:53:19 PM , Rating: 5
    I love the rampant speculation on this particular topic. Just so everyone knows, Alex Jones is the conspiracy theorist to put all others to shame. If a gnat farted in India he would assume that the New World Order had orchestrated it to cause global climate changes and re-shape the power structures of the entire universe. Pretty much anyone he asks on his show is of a similar ilk. So, unless you are also of a similar ilk, you can pretty much disrega
  • I don't understand what makes people think all these issues like turning over info to the government, offering censored content in china or giving IP addresses to the government have simple ideological answers.

    Handing over search information to the government to help them go fishing for people looking at porn so they can gain votes by brandishing puritanical moral principles is a whole lot different than engaging in a narrowly tailored program to catch terrorists.

    Anyone who believes it is always wrong for I
  • Does the CIA even need to work with Google? Can't the NSA ("signals intelligence") just sniff every packet in/out near Google on the backbones connected to Google, and store copies of all Google's unencrypted traffic, analyzing it with the CIA? Why even bother to get Google's permission?
  • Google's refusal to comply with the DOJ over privacy issues was 'a little hypocritical [...] because they were heavily in bed with the Central Intelligence Agency

    It is not hypocritical, it is a cover. :-)
  • Steele is known to be a Conspiracy nut, and is a few letters short of a full acronym if you know what I mean....

    Pretty much anything that this man claims, I can guarantee that the opposite is true. Google may very well have partnered with the CIA in the past, but nothing to the extent to which Mr. Steele is alluding.

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