Following Edward Snowden's PRISM leaks last year, companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft sought to distance themselves from the NSA and claimed to be unaware of some government surveillance activities. And while we've seen companies demand greater transparency from the NSA, that doesn't mean backdoor discussions about security haven't been going on as well. Consider this, for instance: Email communications obtained by Al Jazeera show that Google execs such as Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin have cooperated with the NSA on issues such as "mobility threats" as far back as 2012, before Snowden revealed information about the government's capabilities for spying on Americans' online activities.
It would be easy to over-hype the significance of interactions between Mountain View bigwigs and the NSA, but the emails don't indicate anything particularly untoward on Google's part. Instead, the communications reveal that NSA Director Keith Alexander invited Google CEO Schmidt to a "classified threat briefing" to discuss security issues. An email from Alexander also shows that Google, Apple, Microsoft and other companies worked together to define core security principles, and several other tech firms -- including Dell and HP -- worked with the NSA to minimize threats to enterprise platforms. In other words, Google is clearly not alone in maintaining a dialogue with the government.
While the alarmist undertones may be a bit uncalled for, Al Jazeera does raise the logical concerns about how the NSA uses the information it receives from Google and other internet giants. In any case, though, Google's emails with the security agency hardly implicate the company in any wrongdoing. Reportedly, additional emails between Google execs and the NSA have yet to be released, so stay tuned.