The problem, of course, is not merely one of misunderstanding. It is largely a consequence of the inexorable rise of digital technology. In a sense, the tech companies are more like the NSA than they would like to think. Both have seized on the progress in computing, communications, and storage to advance their respective missions. (When you think of it, Google’s original mission statement—“to collect and organize the world’s information”—might also apply to the activity at Fort Meade.) Both have sought to fulfill those missions by amassing huge troves of personal information—and both offer trade-offs that seemingly justify the practice. Google, Facebook, and others argue that they can use that information to improve the lives of their customers far in excess of any discomfort that may come from sharing that data. The NSA believes that it’s necessary to draw on that information to prevent a replay of 9/11 or worse. Both have established elaborate self-policing procedures to minimize abuse and claim to strictly follow the external constraints that limit their activities. When either makes a mistake, it invariably vows to do better—at least when its overreaches become public.
One of the most even-handed looks at the NSA and it’s dealings with Silicon Valley I’ve read. Definitely worth your time.