Google warns of 'splinter net' fallout from U.S. spying

Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:00pm EST
 
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By Tabassum Zakaria and David Ingram

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Search giant Google Inc on Wednesday warned that U.S. spying operations risk fracturing the open Internet into a "splinter net" that could hurt American business.

In the first public testimony before Congress by a major technology company since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed top secret surveillance programs, Google said it should be allowed to provide the public more information about government demands for user data.

"The current lack of transparency about the nature of government surveillance in democratic countries undermines the freedom and the trust most citizens cherish, it also has a negative impact on our economic growth and security and on the promise of an Internet as a platform for openness and free expression," Richard Salgado, Google's law enforcement and information security director, said.

Members of Congress are grappling with what changes to make to U.S. surveillance programs and laws after the Snowden leaks, which were published in June. The Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing was on legislation proposed by Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota that would provide more transparency.

Franken said the "Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013" would require NSA to disclose publicly how many people have their data collected and estimate how many were Americans.

It would also allow internet and phone companies to inform the public about the orders for data collection from the government and the number of users whose information has been produced in response to those orders.

"Right now, as a result of those gags, many people think that American internet companies are giving up far more information to the government than they likely are," Franken said.

Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said requiring NSA to compile those statistics would be an intensive task that would take resources away from the mission of uncovering terrorism plots.   Continued...

 
Google executive Richard Salgado testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas