In a move as fiendishly clever as it is galling, Microsoft tells the U.S. government about bugs in its notoriously buggy software before it fixes them so that intelligence agencies can use the vulnerabilities for the purposes of cyberspying. "That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes," sources tell Bloomberg's Michael Riley. But still, the biggest software company on Earth is holding off on its blue-screen-of-death problems to turn them into real-life spy features, an impressive feat that will no doubt frustrate consumers: We are, after all, waiting for our computers to work so the nation's spy services — almost certainly including the National Security Agency, given its massive espionage umbrella — can take advantage of the problems with them first. their mistakes first.
That's just one of the many ways the U.S. government and tech companies work together in fiendish ways to more easily allow for complex surveillance, according to Bloomberg's in-depth report:
- In addition to handing over all U.S. phone-call metadata, telecoms give intelligence agencies access to facilities and data "offshore" so that they don't have to go through a judge to get permission.
- McAfee "regularly cooperates" with the U.S. government, handing over all the information on hackers that its firewalls collect. The company, of course, insists that none of its data collection is personal: "We do not share any type of personal information with our government agency partners," McAfee said in a statement.
- "U.S telecommunications, Internet, power companies and others" — so, like, everyone — detail how they systems work to U.S. intelligence officials so they can analyze potential vulnerabilities, both for safety and to use against foreign governments.
- Technically, none of this Silicon Valley-aided espionage takes place with "direct access" so much as through what Bloomberg describes as a "committing officer" who has immunity from lawsuits.
If it hasn't become extremely clear over the last week, the U.S. government is buddy-buddy with private technology companies. Not only do you have to give up your right to privacy; turns out, we don't even have the right to quick bug fixes.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.