The NSA had companies like Google and Yahoo more or less in their back pocket with the PRISM program, forcing them to hand over customers’ private data with comparatively few limitations. The decision to double-down on this and hack both Google and Yahoo’s data centers to collect data above and beyond PRISM could prove to be a major blunder, however, and has the companies shifting from reluctant partner to open opponents.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt took the opportunity of a conference in Hong Kong to blast the NSA’s hacking as “outrageous,” and confirmed that Google has filed official complaints with both the NSA and the White House.
The companies took a major hit in credibility when the details of PRISM were released, but seemed resigned to weathering the storm. The new revelations put the companies in the position of surveillance victims rather than collaborators, and gives them an opportunity to publicly distance themselves from the schemes.
Both Google and Yahoo had previously sought to release data related to their forced cooperation with PRISM, trying to be at least transparent about what they were being made to do. Those companies wield considerable influence in the public sphere though, as well, and the NSA’s overreach seems tailor-made to provoke such a reaction from both.