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Google's Brin Says NSA Surveillance Revelations Were a "Huge Disappointment"

Google's co-founder calls for policy shifts to address mass surveillance.

Asa Mathat

Onstage at Code Conference, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that recent revelations of National Security Agency surveillance were “a huge disappointment, certainly to me and obviously to the world as a whole.”

He suggested that some level of surveillance for national security may be appropriate, but that limited spying on a few foreign generals to prevent “total nuclear annihilation” during the Cold War is not the same as mass surveillance of Internet traffic in the modern age.

“I think the balance looks really different and I guess I don’t know that anyone ever reevaluated that,” he said.

The ongoing spying revelations emerging from the leaks of former defense contractor Edward Snowden have created headaches for major Internet companies on several fronts. It has undermined faith in the security of these products, particularly among foreign citizens with fewer privacy protections in the United States, a fact that could add up to big business losses.

The spy agency was apparently tapping into the links between the data centers of companies including Google and Yahoo, prompting Google’s chief legal officer to call for reforms (and other Googlers to say even more spirited things).

Brin added that Google has been building up its security defenses, and has already begun encrypting its backbone traffic by the time the news broke concerning the NSA’s accessing of the traffic between data centers. Brin said the company’s division focused on security is approaching 1,000 “very, very talented” people.

“But there’s always more you can do,” he said.

He said that the United States needs to revisit the legal policies that allowed this level of surveillance to occur.

“The U.S. looks very hypocritical and I think that’s a problem,” he said.

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