Schmidt defiant on Google privacy efforts

By James Riches topicIcon Google

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has defended the search engine’s privacy record, suggesting critics “don’t understand how Google works”.

Speaking at a surveillance conference last week, Schmidt said he felt the company had responded well in the wake of Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (NSA) revelations, and declared himself “shocked” by the scale of the US government’s activities.

Google has consistently denied any involvement with PRISM. When the story was first reported in June of last year, CEO Larry Page was quick to distance the company from any suggestions they helped officials spy on users.

Schmidt outlined Google’s response to a Washington Post report showing that the NSA and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had been able to copy data transmitted between company servers.

He revealed that Google has now placed a 2,048-bit encryption on all traffic, which is “unbreakable in our lifetime by any sets of human beings in any way”, and declared Google to be the safest place for storing important information.

Google dismisses government wish for easier access

Schmidt also dismissed the FBI’s request for companies to add a ‘back door’ into its systems, suggesting that if the government wants access to data it should “go in through the front door”.

FBI director James Comey has said that companies which do not help the government gain easy access to its systems risk putting the public in danger by aiding terrorists and criminals.

He highlighted the cases of Google and Apple, who have both made changes to their operating systems in order to prevent law enforcement agencies from unlocking their smartphones.

However, Schmidt countered that the government already has ways to access data if it needs to, such as “warrants” and “good police work”. He added that allowing the government easier access to its systems risked paving the way for others to gain entry as well.

While he conceded that Snowden’s information had undoubtedly helped companies like Google increase security, Schmidt was keen to stress that the company does not encourage the practice of data leaking and concluded that doing so was “not good for society”.