Intelligence community and Silicon Valley grew up together

Is it possible that people are shocked to find out that there are strong ties between Silicon Valley and the intelligence and military communities? After all, it was the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, later DARPA) which developed the basis for the Internet. And early Valley starters like Intel, Fairchild and Motorola grew rich on government contracts.

The smart young lads and lassies creating apps are standing on a bedrock of military and spy ties. So, if there are connections between the NSA and the rulers of the Internet, it shouldn’t be surprising.

As a recent article in the newspaper of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News, put it, “...despite its libertarian bent, Silicon Valley, in turn, has benefited over the years from federal research funding, supply contracts and even regulators’ good will.”

So, what is the quid pro quo? According to details leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Prism program gives NSA access to data transmitted by private Internet companies like Google, Facebook, Skype and others. But by what statute can the NSA demand user data from these companies? That’s still being argued.

Even if they aren’t feeling the debt of history, Silicon Valley leaders can hardly ignore the federal government. “Companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple are frequently scrutinized by regulators for compliance with antitrust and consumer protection laws. And the tech industry pours millions of dollars into lobbying on legislation and policies that affect it.”

And, as the Mercury News noted, “Civil liberties activists worry that those interactions, especially the threat of regulatory action, make it all the more difficult for tech companies to resist when the National Security Agency or FBI come asking for customer data.”

Arpanet: The first Internet (UCLA Design School)

Silicon Valley long has had ties to military, intelligence agencies (San Jose Mercury News, Jun. 22, 2013)