Google & the Government: How Close Are They?

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Ever since Google became the dominant leader in the search sector, there have been rumblings about alleged connections with the U.S. government and the whole “Big Brother” thing. While a lot of it is just speculation, Google does in fact have some dealings with some federal agencies, including the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), amongst others.

Google provides the search features for the CIA’s Wikipedia-style site, known as Intellipedia, where agents can post information about targets that can be accessed and appended by colleagues. The site has varying levels of access, including top secret, secret and sensitive, and sensitive but unclassified. To date, there are 35,000 articles, and approx. 37,000 registered users. It is accessible only by members of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other intelligence agencies.

The NSA has also enlisted the help of Google in buying servers on which Google search technology is used to process information gathered by spies around the world.

These are just a few of the contracts that Google has entered into with US intelligence agencies, and Google’s “federal government sales team” hopes to expand their reach even further. Google also works with other non-intelligence government agencies, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Coast Guard.

Most of the time, with these governmental contracts, Google simply supplies their search technology for the agency to use with their own database. The US Coast Guard, however, has signed on for additional services, including a more advanced version of Google Earth that ships can use to navigate more safely.

Globally, Google does not yet have special sales teams set up to pitch products to foreign governments. However, they have targeted some public sector organizations abroad.

With a dedicated team pushing for sales to the US Government, we can expect that Google’s relationship with the government will continue to grow. Whether that relationship remains strictly to sell their products, or steps beyond that into the conspiracy theory zone is not for me to speculate on.

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