Tech companies cooperating with NSA, report says

The NSA recruited Facebook's CSO, and Skype has formed a group to explore sharing data, according to the New York Times

By , IDG News Service |  Government

The U.S. government is one of the largest customers of data analytics from tech firms, and the National Security Agency has recruited a top security officer from Facebook, according to a report in the New York Times.

The NSA hired Facebook Chief Security Officer Max Kelly when he left the company in 2010, according to the Times report published Thursday.

Intelligence agencies are recruiting top employees from U.S. tech vendors in an effort to help the agencies better collect information about Web users, the story said.

In addition, Skype is cooperating with the NSA through a program exploring the legal and technical issues involved in making customer calls available to intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the Times reported.

The NSA spends an estimated US$8 billion to $10 billion a year in Silicon Valley on activities including investing in tech startups and awarding classified contracts, the Times reported.

Skype representatives didn't respond to a request for comments on the story. Last year, Mark Gillett, corporate vice president in Microsoft's Skype division, denied that Skype had made changes in its architecture at the behest of Microsoft to give law enforcement better access to users' communications.

"Skype's architecture decisions are based on our desire to provide the best possible product to our users," Gillett wrote in a blog post.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the Times story, but said the company was unaware that Kelly took a job with the NSA after leaving there.

Earlier this month, the Guardian and the Washington Post published information leaked from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who said that nine tech companies, including Facebook and Skype, have given the NSA direct access to their servers. Most of the companies have denied his allegations.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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