US technology companies beef up security to thwart mass spying


A year after Edward Snowden exposed the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs, the major US technology companies suffering from the fallout are uniting to shore up their defenses against government intrusion. Instead of aggressively lobbying Washington for reform, Google, Microsoft Corp and other tech companies have made security advancements their top priority, adopting tools that make blanket interception of Internet activity more difficult.

"It's of course important for companies to do the things under our own control, and what we have under our own control is our own technology practices," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith told Reuters. "I don't know that anyone believes that will be sufficient to allay everyone's concerns. There is a need for reform of government practices, but those will take longer."

As part of a "Reset the Net" campaign now reaching a mainstream audience, Google said it was releasing a test version of a program allowing Gmail users to keep email encrypted until it reaches other Gmail users, without the company decrypting it in transit to display advertising.

Google, Microsoft and Facebook moved to encrypt internal traffic after revelations by Snowden, a former NSA contractor that the spy agency hacked into their connections overseas. The companies have also smaller adjustments that together make sweeping collection more difficult.

"Anyone trying to perform mass surveillance is going to have a much harder job today than they would have even six months ago," said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

US technology companies beef up security to thwart mass spying Google is making it harder for the government to spy on your emails (National Journal)