In return for providing "sensitive information", Bloomberg claims these companies receive benefits "that include access to classified intelligence." The news agency explains that many internet and telecom companies don't just hand over the details of their customers' private communications, but also details like equipment specifications, too.
While there's no list of named companies the article does claims that "makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies" all participate in government programs to supply data. It goes on to explain that the data is often used to both defend the nation and attack others.
It explains, for instance, how Microsoft gives government agencies a heads-up when it comes to bug fixes—and two sources describe how the news is used to exploit vulnerabilities in software sold to foreign governments. There are plenty of other examples given in the Bloomberg piece.
The overall message? Data sharing by high-powered organizations is rife and currently unstoppable. While that's not to say it's always a bad thing—clearly, if it can help maintain the security of the US, we should be happy—it fosters a mentality where data is just another commodity. Regardless of whose it is. [Bloomberg]
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