Google Snooping For The Government? So What?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Recent disclosures that Google ( GOOG) is passing along requested information to U.S. spy agencies is making big headlines. It's a problem without an easy solution, but these days, a necessary evil.

In this new, ultra-connected online world we live in spying has become high art and big business. We spy on everyone. Everyone spies on us. Do I like that? No. Will it end anytime soon? No. Will legislative oversight make a difference? I doubt it.

This week, David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer wrote to to U.S Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI boss Robert Mueller asking for permission to set the record straight - to let the world know that the U.S. government does not have complete access to all of Google's files. Google asked for permission to publish specific information in a "Transparency Report" outlining the number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and other security requests they receive as well as the scope of those requests.

The Department of Justice has acknowledged Google's letter but refused further comment.

For its part, Google has historically complied with governmental requests. Now it has a PR problem. The company has asked the U.S. Justice Department for permission to make public what information has been requested and what has been submitted to the government. Many of these requests are to fulfill subpoenas from the super-secret court proceedings made under FISA. Google has been complying with FISA requests for years.

Google has also been dealing with the super-secret spies at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the PRISM initiative. Under PRISM, the NSA collects and examines data it receives from Internet providers. Information such as the contents of emails, videos, online chats and Web searches.

Google is not the only technology provider dealing with these secret court orders. Microsoft ( MSFT) and Facebook ( FB) are caught in the same situation. Both companies have also asked the government for permission to reveal a little bit more about their government dealings under FISA.

I'm not sure publishing details about who the government spies on - when they do it - or why - will ultimately keep anyone safe. And, I wonder whether there is actually a way to control these requests other than to regulate them out of existence.

These new high-tech problems are a by-product of the giant connectivity explosion the world has experienced over the past few decades. I don't see any better way for Internet providers or the government to protect our personal freedoms and keep us safe at the same time. Unfortunately, high-tech snooping is now a big part of today's online universe.

I can proudly report that I'm not a threat to anyone. I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that the government might be spying on me. However, I think spying on everyone else is perfectly fine.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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