GOOGLE'S DON'T BE EVIL reputation has been shaken by evidence to suggest its relationship with the US National Security Agency (NSA) is cosier than anyone thought.
If emails obtained by Al Jazeera are to be believed, relations between Google chairman Eric Schmidt and NSA chief General Keith Alexander were cordial and involved a series of collaborative meetings under the banner of the Enduring Security Framework (ESF), a group of 18 CEOs from the information technology industry that met to "coordinate government/industry actions on important (generally classified) security issues that couldn't be solved by individual actors alone".
Although some media including US news show 60 Minutes have reported that the alliance between the NSA and the technology industry resulted in thwarting a Chinese plot to bring down the US economy by bricking computer BIOS chips, others believe that this was the same project that led to implementation by the NSA of a series of BIOS back doors, as revealed in one of the first leaks revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
However the Google relationship will raise the most eyebrows. Schmidt has been vocally critical of the NSA ever since the Snowden papers revealed the extent of its surveillance of the internet.
However, in one of the leaked emails, Schmidt, unable to attend an ESF meeting wrote, "General Keith.. so great to see you.. ! I'm unlikely to be in California that week so I'm sorry I can't attend (will be on the east coast). Would love to see you another time. Thank you!"
That suggests an altogether chummier relationship than the one presented earlier by Google, which protested that any cooperation with the NSA was coerced.
Google, which claims to encrypt all its traffic to keep the NSA out, has yet to respond to questions on the subject, but that collective sigh you hear might be millions of people realising just how much of their personal data and other information they've given to Google. µ