Company officials acknowledge no level of encryption can prevent the NSA from reading someone's email or other electronic data, but they said encrypting users' content forces the government to more specifically target suspects rather than collecting and sorting millions of messages and sorting through them from there.
Eric Grosse, Google's vice president for security, told The Washington Post government hackers are some of the best in the world, but the company is committed to protecting users' privacy in the face of revelations the NSA has accessed huge amounts of ordinary citizens' electronic information.
"It's an arms race," Grosse said. "We see these government agencies as among the most skilled players in this game."
Critics of the NSA's tactics applauded Google's efforts to secure Americans' electronic information.
"If the NSA wants to get into your system, they are going to get in. ... Most of the people in my community are realistic about that," said Christopher Soghoian, a computer security expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is all about making dragnet surveillance impossible."
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