In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt took a swing at the National Security Agency over reports that its spies have tapped into Google’s data network traffic.
“It’s really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that’s true,” said Schmidt. “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 okay.”
Schmidt’s comments come in response to a report last week from the Washington Post, which, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, revealed that the NSA had secretly tapped the fiber optic network between Google and Yahoo data centers. The alleged data interception reportedly allowed the NSA access to hundreds of millions of users’ communications, including that of Americans.
The NSA has since denied the accuracy of the Post’s report. In a statement issued last week, the agency said it “conducts all of its activities in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies – and assertions to the contrary do a grave disservice to the nation, its allies and partners, and the men and women who make up the National Security Agency.”
On top of calling out the NSA’s alleged tapping of Google and Yahoo data links, Schmidt also questioned the agency’s practice of collecting the phone metadata of more than 300 million Americans, calling it “bad public policy” that is “perhaps illegal.”
Google is one of nine companies that the NSA compelled to hand over user data through the use of secret court orders. The NSA’s reported access to Google and Yahoo data center networks came as a surprise to both companies, according to their official statements.
Schmidt has been criticized in the past for his views on user privacy due to a statement made during a 2009 interview with CNBC, when he said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Following last week’s NSA revelations, however, Schmidt’s attitude appears to have shifted – at least a by a few degrees.
“There clearly are cases where evil people exist, but you don’t have to violate the privacy of every single citizen of America to find them,” said Schmidt.