Silicon Valley's reaction to Edward Snowden and his leaks about government surveillance has taken on an indignant tone that was previously missing. All it took for the worm to turn was for the snooping to get personal.
After this summer's revelations, Microsoft, Google, and the rest issued tepid calls for "greater transparency" -- basically asking for the right to report the number of information requests made by government agencies. But now the tables have turned, and the latest leaks reveal that tech companies themselves have been spied on, their networks tapped without their knowledge or cooperation. Cue the outrage.
Google security employee Brandon Downey took to the blogosphere this week to express his displeasure at news that the NSA and British intelligence GCHQ had broken into Google's systems. Professional pride seems to have played a part in his protest:
I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to keep Google's users safe and secure from the many diverse threats Google faces....
But after spending all that time helping in my tiny way to protect Google -- one of the greatest things to arise from the internet -- seeing this, well, it's just a little like coming home from War with Sauron, destroying the One Ring, only to discover the NSA is on the front porch of the Shire chopping down the Party Tree and outsourcing all the hobbit farmers with half-orcs and whips.
Google colleague Mike Hearn echoed the outrage: "We designed this system to keep criminals out. There's no ambiguity here.... Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.... Thank you, Edward Snowden. For me personally, this is the most interesting revelation all summer."
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, reacting in a Wall Street Journal interview to reports the government spied on his company's data centers, said, "It's really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centers, if that's true. 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 OK."