The American Civil Liberties Union is asking its members to contact Google executives and ask them not to work with the US National Security Agency to investigate cyberattacks allegedly coming from China.
The civil liberties advocacy group, in an email sent to members this week, asked them to object to the "troubling" partnership. The Washington Post reported last Thursday that Google and the NSA were drafting an agreement in which the spy agency would help the company investigate a major cyberattack that allegedly originated from within China.
"Google - the world's largest search engine company with access to intimate details of our lives - is negotiating an electronic surveillance deal with the National Security Agency - the world's largest spying network," said the ACLU letter to members.
"The implications of this deal are very troubling. The NSA... is an intelligence collection agency with few effective checks against abuse and no public oversight of its activities."
The NSA has conducted surveillance on US residents without court-ordered warrants, the ACLU letter noted. The NSA ran a terrorist surveillance programme that targeted the phone calls and email messages of some US residents following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US.
Last week, a Google spokeswoman declined to comment on a partnership with the NSA. Google is working with US authorities to investigate the attacks on its servers, and Google will work hard to protect its users' privacy and security, the spokeswoman said.
The Google spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an email requesting comments on the ACLU letter. The NSA press office didn't immediately respond, either.
Last month, Google officials said the company may pull out of China because of censorship there and because of attacks that appear to be originating from within the country. Google said its servers were attacked in mid-December, with attackers targeting the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
The ACLU website links to a letter its members can send to Google.
"How can I trust that [the NSA] will fix any security holes that it discovers, rather than make use of them to secretly spy on my communications especially given the agency's record in the past 8 years of carrying out unconstitutional warrantless domestic wiretapping?" the suggested letter said. "Google holds an awful lot of information about me and other Americans, and I urge you not to enter into this arrangement with the NSA. Any agreement should be with civilian agencies that are separate from the military, separate from the spy agencies, and subject to strict public oversight and checks and balances written into law."
The ACLU isn't the only group that's raised concerns about a potential partnership between Google and the NSA. Last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSA asking for details of the partnership.