Planet GOOG

Report: The NSA Is Spying on Data From Google and Yahoo, Too

Can't wait to see Larry Page testifying on Capitol Hill.
Nice smiley, you sly devils. (Photo: The Washington Post)

Nice smiley, you sly devils. (Photo: The Washington Post)

Cue Silicon Valley brick-shitting: The latest batch of Snowden leaks suggest the NSA is hoovering up massive amounts of Google and Yahoo data, snatching it off the connections between their various worldwide data centers–without their permission. The project is called “MUSCULAR,” in case “PRISM” wasn’t Ludlum-y enough for you.

The Washington Post reports:

“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.”

Also included in the revelations: the creepily whimsical doodle above. Word to the wise: not a good look for a secretive government bureaucracy.

Of course, just because they’re sucking all this data down doesn’t mean they’re actually looking at it. Make you feel any better? (Us neither.) What keeps this program on the right side of the law is the fact that the operations happen overseas, “where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.” Given Google and Yahoo are international companies, that’s not so clear-cut.

Meanwhile Politico says NSA director Keith Alexander has already expressed skepticism about the report, reiterating that the NSA doesn’t have access to companies’ servers. But of course, that’s not what the Post is claiming.

Google ain’t happy. The company told the Post that they’re “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity” and said concern about “this kind of snooping” has already lead them to step up their encryption efforts. Ditto Yahoo: “We have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

The Post received a less carefully composed reaction from two engineers “with close ties to Google.” The pair “exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing” and one of them said, “I hope you publish this.”

Could the NSA at least tell us what’s in those goddamn barges?

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com