21 June 2013
In 2010 the CEO for Facebook, Max Kelly, left to join the National Security Agency (NSA). He moved from protecting the information of over a billion Facebook users to work for the NSA whose purpose it is to analyse substantial amounts of collected data.
The move of an employee from a social media business to an agency involved in programs such as PRISM emphasises the deeper connections between the tech companies in Silicon Valley and the government intelligence agencies.
Both the NSA and the social media companies, like Facebook, are in pursuit of large pools of data.
The relationship between Silicon Vally and the NSA is a complex one, based on common interests.
Silicon Valley has what the ‘spy agency’ desires immense quantities of private data as well as the sophisticated software to analyse it. In turn the agency is one of Silicon Valley’s largest customers; it is thought spend in the region of 8-10 billion dollars annually. To grasp the pioneering software technologies, US intelligence agencies invest in Silicon Valley and recruit their technology experts.
Silicon Valley has been supplying equipment to the NSA for as long as can be remembered however they now share new interests other than equipment, data.
Despite the tech companies’ claims that they cooperate with the agency only when legally compelled to do so, current and former industry officials say that the tech companies occasionally find ways to cooperate more completely with the NSA to make their customers’ information more accessible to the agency.
The NSA uses its most senior officials to entice the ‘cream of the crop’ to its agency. Last summer General Alexander and the chief of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command joined the largest hacker conference, Defcon, in Las Vegas, aiming to recruit hackers for the agency.
“They’re very open about their interest in recruiting from the hacker community,” said Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at Stanford Law School’s Centre for Internet and Society.
Many software technology firms involved in data analytics are open about their connections to intelligence agencies.
The prospect of continually greater cooperation between Silicon Valley and the NSA in the future is imminent.
Social media sites have the ability to collect data on a scale that challengers or surpasses anything the government could endeavour on its own without even trying. User’s hand over data to sites like Facebook voluntarily, they would never even consider passing the same on to a government agency.