It’s well-established at this point that the U.S. National Security Agency obtains data about people from their Internet service providers through its secret court systems. But the NSA also has a backdoor to Google and Yahoo data centers, according to the Washington Post, which has fresh documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The report details a project called MUSCULAR that grabs data from fiber-optic cables. That would be illegal on U.S. soil, but it takes place overseas. Google has said it is actively working to encrypt data flowing between its data centers, while Yahoo has not.
It’s unclear how useful MUSCULAR has been, but the Post reports that it “has produced important intelligence leads against hostile foreign governments.”
Google sounds freaked out in its statement to the Post. The company is “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity. … We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links.”
Yahoo’s statement is more circumspect: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”