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N.S.A. May Have Hit Internet Companies At A Weak Spot

Publication Date: 
November 27, 2013
The New York Times - Technology
Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff

Lecturer Chip Pitts spoke with The New York Times' Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff on how the NSA's mass surveillance is just a modern spin on the government's tradition of eavesdropping. 

The recent revelation that the National Security Agency was able to eavesdrop on the communications of Google and Yahoo users without breaking into either company’s data centers sounded like something pulled from a Robert Ludlum spy thriller.

How on earth, the companies asked, did the N.S.A. get their data without their knowing about it?

The most likely answer is a modern spin on a century-old eavesdropping tradition.


“From Echelon to Total Information Awareness to Prism, all these programs have gone under different names, but in essence do the same thing,” said Chip Pitts, a law lecturer at Stanford University School of Law.


Mr. Pitts said that while working as the chief legal officer at Nokia in the 1990s, he successfully fended off an effort by intelligence agencies to get backdoor access into Nokia’s computer networking equipment.