WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.(Reuters / John Stillwell/)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange equated Google with the National Security Agency and GCHQ, saying the tech giant has become “a privatized version of the NSA,” as it collects, stores, and indexes people’s data. He made his remarks to BBC and Sky News.
“Google’s business model is the spy. It makes more than 80 percent of its money by collecting information about people, pooling it together, storing it, indexing it, building profiles of people to predict their interests and behavior, and then selling those profiles principally to advertisers, but also others,”Assange told BBC.
“So the result is that Google, in terms of how it works, its actual practice, is almost identical to the National Security Agency or GCHQ,” the whistleblower argued.
‘Google deeply involved in US foreign policy’
Google has been working with the NSA “in terms of contracts since at least 2002,” Assange told Sky News.
“They are formally listed as part of the defense industrial base since 2009. They have been engaged with the Prism system, where nearly all information collected by Google is available to the NSA,” Assange said. “At the institutional level, Google is deeply involved in US foreign policy.”
Google has tricked people into believing that it is “a playful, humane organization” and not a “big, bad US corporation,” Assange told BBC. “But in fact it has become just that...it is now arguably the most influential commercial organization.”
“Google has now spread to every country, every single person, who has access to the internet,” he reminded.
Police stand guard during a news conference by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014.(Reuters / Toby Melville)
During his interviews, Assange also touched on his own situation at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been trapped since June 2012, after being offered asylum.
The embassy is watched around the clock by British police who are ready to place Assange under arrest should he attempt to leave.
Assange said that his stay there has impacted his work, as surveillance makes certain tasks very difficult.
“The 7.3 million pounds (US$12 million) of police surveillance admitted outside this embassy. It is a difficult situation. It is not a situation that is easy for [a] national security reporter. You can’t read sources. It is difficult to meet some of my staff because of that surveillance,” he said.
“On the other hand, there are no subpoenas, there are no door knocks in the night, unlike [for] other national security reporters. So in some ways there are benefits to the situation,” Assange noted. “Other people are in more difficult situations. Chelsea Manning for example, who was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison, my alleged co-conspirator.”
Assange spoke optimistically about recent changes made to Britain's extradition laws.
“Early this year, the UK passed modifications to ban extradition without charge, to insist on if you want to speak with someone you have to come to the UK or charge them. You can’t just say, 'I want to speak to that person and I am not willing to use any standard mechanisms.'”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) speaks as Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino listens, during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London August 18, 2014. (Reuters / John Stillwell)
Meanwhile, the situation has also been changing in Sweden, with general elections taking place over the weekend. According to Assange, there is a shift in attitude there, which could mean a significant change for him as early as next year.
“The Swedish election was on Sunday. We don’t know yet what the formation of the government will be. It will probably be a center-left government. And there is attitude changes there. We have appeal in Sweden in just two weeks’ time.”
Assange filed an appeal against a Swedish warrant for his arrest earlier in September. His lawyers are arguing that the prosecutors are acting “in gross breach of Swedish law.”
“We argue against the district court’s decision and believe they do not properly take account of the situation,” said Assange's Swedish attorney, Thomas Olssen, according to Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.
The WikiLeaks founder is wanted for questioning in Sweden, for allegedly sexually assaulting two women in Stockholm in 2010.
Assange denies the allegations, but will not travel to Sweden to be questioned because he says the charges are politically motivated for his work with WikiLeaks and he will be extradited to the US. WikiLeaks enraged Washington by publishing thousands of leaked diplomatic cables in 2010.
Meanwhile, Assange has released a new book titled 'When Google Met WikiLeaks.' In the book, the WikiLeaks founder describes his vision for the future of the internet and recounts a meeting with Google chairman Eric Schmidt in 2011.