It seems that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have been working with Level 3, whose fiber optics cables connect both Yahoo and Google’s data centers, to spy on these companies.
Level 3 is an internet service provider and telecommunications company which provides its services to a number of countries and is based in the United States. You probably haven’t heard of it because Level 3 is not a consumer-facing company; it provides business-to-business services and owns much of the fiber optic backbone that powers the internet all around the world.
The issue here is, Level 3 — and similar companies — own the cables that data connections are made over. If NSA and co have direct access to those cables, literally nothing on the internet is safe. Essentially, it is akin to your locksmith giving the NSA the keys to your front door… except in this case, the NSA has the keys to a large part of the internet.
So far, Level 3 has only released a statement that argues that anything they did complied with the laws of the county they are in, seemingly implying that they indeed did assist the NSA (although maybe not willingly):
“It is our policy and our practice to comply with laws in every country where we operate and to provide government agencies access to customer data only when we are compelled to do so by the laws in the country where the data is located.”
Well, that certainly makes me feel completely safe and reassured.