Newspaper article International New York Times

Web Firms Race to Tighten Their Security after Snowden Leaks ; Yahoo and Microsoft Are the Latest to Upgrade Safeguards for Data

Newspaper article International New York Times

Web Firms Race to Tighten Their Security after Snowden Leaks ; Yahoo and Microsoft Are the Latest to Upgrade Safeguards for Data

Article excerpt

In the era of revelations of mass government surveillance, companies are competing to show people how well their data is protected from prying eyes.

When Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's chief executive, recently announced the company's biggest security overhaul in more than a decade, she did not exactly receive a standing ovation.

Ordinary users asked Ms. Mayer why Yahoo was not doing more. Privacy activists were more blunt. "Even after today's announcement, Yahoo still lags far behind Google on web security," Christopher Soghoian, a technology analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a Nov. 18 Twitter posting.

For big Internet outfits, it is no longer enough to have a fast- loading smartphone app or cool messaging service. In the era of Edward J. Snowden and his revelations of mass government surveillance, companies are competing to show people how well their data is protected from prying eyes, with billions of dollars in revenue hanging in the balance.

On Thursday, Microsoft was to be the latest technology company to announce plans to shield its services from outside surveillance. It is in the process of adding state-of-the-art encryption features to various consumer services and internally at its data centers.

The announcement follows similar efforts by Google, Mozilla, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo in what has effectively become a digital arms race with the United States National Security Agency as the companies react to what some have called the "Snowden effect."

While security has long simmered as a concern for users, many companies were reluctant to employ modern protections, worried that upgrades would slow down connections and add complexity to their networks.

But the issue boiled over six months ago, when documents leaked by Mr. Snowden described efforts by the N.S.A. and its intelligence partners to spy on millions of Internet users. More than half of Americans surveyed say N.S.A. surveillance has intruded on their personal privacy rights, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in November.

The revelations also shook Internet companies, which have been trying to reassure customers that they are doing what they can to protect their data from spying. They have long complied with legal orders to hand over information, but were alarmed by more recent news that the N.S.A. was also gaining access to their data without their knowledge.

"We want to ensure that governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to obtain customer data -- it's as simple as that," Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said in an interview.

Mr. Smith said his company would also open "transparency centers" where foreign governments could inspect the company's code in an effort to assure them that it did not build back doors for spy agencies into its products. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.