WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had unsurprisingly harsh words for Google this week during a promotion event for his new book, “When Google Met WikiLeaks,” during which he described the Silicon Valley giant as a “privatized NSA.”
“People who use Google are the product,” Assange told a Manhattan lunch party Wednesday via video from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has been holed up since June 2012 while claiming asylum from charges of sexual assault in Sweden.
Assange likened Google products like Android, which collects troves of private data on its users for Google to use in product design and targeted advertising, to the beleaguered signals intelligence agency that has faced criticism, indictment and reform since 2013 over its bulk warrantless surveillance of Americans’ digital communications.
The founder said Google’s mobile platform is “constantly sending your location…streaming back your contacts, emails and everything you search for. It’s all collected,” Daily Digest News reports. (RELATED: Google Android’s ‘Active Watching’ Patent Will Try To Photograph, Record, Identify Everyone In A Room)
“Julian is very paranoid about things,” Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said during an interview on ABC News Tuesday. “Google never collaborated with the NSA and in fact, we’ve fought very hard against what they did. We have taken all of our data, all of our exchanges, and we fully encrypted them so no one can get them, especially the government.”
“He’s of course writing from the, shall we say, luxury lodgings of the local embassy in London,” Schmidt said.
Assange, who previously met Schmidt in 2011, said he and Schmidt are “quite similar” despite Schmidt’s “difficult” job as Google’s “secretary of state.” The founder said it was “sad” Schmidt had to resort to insults to discredit Assange’s book, which recounts their meeting and purports to show Google’s connection to the U.S. government in regard to the Internet.
The U.S. Department of Justice has been pursuing an investigation into WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act for the last four years for publishing classified intelligence documents related to foreign service communications and national defense.