Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt "complained at great length" to American and British government officials after learning that the two nations' chief intelligence agencies had tapped fiber-optic cables connecting Internet users around the globe.
According to the London-based Guardian, Schmidt insisted in editorial meeting
at the newspaper Tuesday that he did not know that the National Security Agency had been tapping into the company's data. Google now encrypts its traffic to foil eavesdropping.
"Had we been briefed, we probably couldn't have acted on it, because we'd have known about it. I've declined [US government] briefings about this because I don't want to be constrained."
Schmidt, 58, said he did not have a position on whether Edward Snowden, who has leaked classified NSA materials to The Guardian and The Washington Post, should face criminal charges.
"Had this information not come to light, we would not have been able to [stop the NSA spying]. I can understand the position he felt."
Asked whether Snowden should be pardoned, Schmidt said: "I don't think it's so obvious one way or the other."
Schmidt, who implied to the Guardian that the NSA does not request a large volume of data from Google, said he did not personally deal with such queries even though he has the requisite security clearance.
"Because if I did then I would be subject to a whole lot of rules. There's a team of attorneys who see them," he said.
At the same time, Schmidt described privacy issues involving the NSA collection of Internet data as "a luxury problem" when contrasted with China and other countries that maintain strict censorship of the Internet.
Meanwhile, The Hill reported Tuesday that under President Barack Obama's newly announced NSA surveillance policies, Google would be permitted
to reveal more details about the data it turns over to the intelligence community.
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