The Guy Who Used To Protect Your Facebook Data Now Works For The NSA

zuckerberg obamaU.S. President Barack Obama takes off his jacket as he attends a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters with CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, April 20, 2011.

Last Week Mike Riley of Bloomberg, citing four people familiar with the process, reported that thousands of companies work closely with U.S. national security agencies by swapping sensitive trade information for benefits including access to classified intelligence.

Riley’s scoop — along with Michael Hirsch’s report in The Atlantic that Silicon Valley and private defence contractors built government’s surveillance system — sheds light on the remarkably close relationship between private technology companies and the government.

It turns out there’s also some personnel overlap, as report by James Risen and Nick Wingfield of The New York Times:

“When Max Kelly, the chief security officer for Facebook, left the social media company in 2010, he did not go to Google, Twitter or a similar Silicon Valley concern. Instead the man who was responsible for protecting the personal information of Facebook’s more than one billion users from outside attacks went to work for [the National Security Agency].”

The article notes that Kelly’s move from the world’s largest social network to the world’s largest spy agency — which had not been previously reported — makes sense given that both collect, analyse, and exploit reams of data about millions of Americans.

The two enterprises are deeply intertwined since “Silicon Valley has what the spy agency wants: vast amounts of private data and the most sophisticated software available to analyse it” while the NSA is “one of Silicon Valley’s largest customers for what is known as data analytics, one of the valley’s fastest-growing markets,” according to the Times.

Risen and Wingfield note that the key difference between the operations of Facebook and the NSA is that “the NSA does it for intelligence, and Silicon Valley does it to make money.”

The article, which also reports that five years ago Skype allegedly set up a secret program to help the government spy on its users, comes highly recommended.

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