Many more firms share data with Intelligence agencies

Last week the NSA whistleblower named nine companies allegedly sharing data with intelligence agencies, but a new report says the real number of companies that are collaborating with U.S. intelligence agencies is much larger. The report puts that figure in the thousands.

A report, that cites sources that are anonymous, said information sharing between U.S. spy agencies and private tech companies is routine, even though not many people within the companies that participate are even likely to know it goes on.

One of the most frequently traded information is when companies give the agencies access to information on security flaws prior to it being made available to the general public.

Sometimes that type of information is also used to help with domestic security, states the report, but other times intelligence agencies use it to exploit software flaws to foreign governments.

A spokesperson from Microsoft confirmed that it does participate in a number of information sharing programs. However, it said the programs were designed to allow the government to have a head start on mediation and risk assessment.

A spokesperson for McAfee, the security subsidiary of Intel, said the government is one of its key customers of data compiled on security threats.

In a number of cases, the report says companies hand over data voluntarily that intelligence agencies might need a court order to otherwise receive.

That type of information sharing typically is done completely in secret where just executives at the highest level are aware of its relationship.

Often times just a sole executive is appointed in charge of giving the government agencies the information. That executive is typically given a document that grants him or her immunity from any civil prosecution.