The NSA and Silicon Valley Are in the Same BusinessS

The National Security Agency and Silicon Valley are both after the same thing: You.

Or your data, insofar as you can manage to make a distinction. A New York Times special delves into "the degree to which [the NSA and the tech industry] are now in the same business":

Silicon Valley has what the spy agency wants: vast amounts of private data and the most sophisticated software available to analyze it. The agency in turn is one of Silicon Valley’s largest customers for what is known as data analytics, one of the valley’s fastest-growing markets. To get their hands on the latest software technology to manipulate and take advantage of large volumes of data, United States intelligence agencies invest in Silicon Valley start-ups, award classified contracts and recruit technology experts like Mr. Kelly. [...]

Despite the companies’ assertions that they cooperate with the agency only when legally compelled, current and former industry officials say the companies sometimes secretly put together teams of in-house experts to find ways to cooperate more completely with the N.S.A. and to make their customers’ information more accessible to the agency. The companies do so, the officials say, because they want to control the process themselves. They are also under subtle but powerful pressure from the N.S.A. to make access easier.

One such example, which the Times scoops: Skype's "Project Chess," a years-old top-secret initiative (only eight people at the company knew about it) to make Skype calls and data "readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials"—putting the lie to claims that Skype's cooperation with law enforcement was at the bidding of its new owners at Microsoft.

And then there's Kenneth A. Minihan, coming soon to an airport paperback near you:

A career Air Force intelligence officer, Mr. Minihan was the director of the N.S.A. during the Clinton administration until his retirement in the late 1990s, and then he ran the agency’s outside professional networking organization. Today he is managing director of Paladin Capital Group, a venture capital firm based in Washington that in part specializes in financing start-ups that offer high-tech solutions for the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies. In effect, Mr. Minihan is an advanced scout for the N.S.A. as it tries to capitalize on the latest technology to analyze and exploit the vast amounts of data flowing around the world and inside the United States.

Elsewhere in the paper today: A special section on Big Data.

[image via AP]