Featured photo - Apple and Google Just Attended a Confidential Spy Summit in a Remote English Mansion

Top representatives from Apple and Google met with spy chiefs at an 18th-century mansion last week to talk about the growing public concern over government surveillance, according to The Intercept.

The secretive meeting took place over the course of three days at a conference hosted by The Ditchley Foundation at its countryside mansion in England, where everything discussed was under a strict confidentiality agreement called the Chatham House Rule.

The Ditchley Foundation Mansion

The Ditchley Foundation Mansion in England.

Under the Chatham House Rule, “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Spy chiefs from seven countries spanning from the U.S. to Australia met with tech giants including Apple, Google, and Vodafone to discuss the balance between national security, bulk surveillance, and personal privacy in the wake of the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

According to the leaked itinerary obtained by The Intercept, the conference’s agenda included topics such as “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance?’, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity,” and “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?”

Spies and top leaders were attendance from the following organizations: the CIA, President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the National Crime Agency, the German federal intelligence service the BND, Sweden’s surveillance agency the FRA, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The list of participants included:

From companies:

Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security; Verity Harding, Google’s U.K. public policy manager and head of security and privacy policy; Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy; Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s product security and privacy manager; Matthew Kirk, Vodafone Group’s external affairs director; and Phillipa McCrostie, global vice chair of transaction advisory services, Ernst & Young.

From the U.S.:

John McLaughlin, the CIA’s former acting director and deputy director; Jami Miscik, the CIA’s former director of intelligence; Mona Sutphen, member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and former White House deputy chief of staff; Rachel Brand, member of thePrivacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board; George Newcombe, board of visitors, Columbia Law School; David Ignatius, Washington Postcolumnist and associate editor; and Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books contributor.

From the U.K.:

Robert Hannigan, current chief of British surveillance agency GCHQ; Sir David Omand, former GCHQ chief; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former head of the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee; Lord Butler of Brockwell, member of the Intelligence and Security Committee; Dr. Jamie Saunders, director of the National Cybercrime Unit at the National Crime Agency; Sir Mark Waller, Intelligence Services Commissioner; Peter Clarke, former head of Counter Terrorism Command at London’s Metropolitan Police; Baroness Neville-Jones, House of Lords special representative to business on cyber security and member of the joint parliamentary committee on national security strategy; John Spellar, member of parliament; Duncan Campbell, investigative journalist; Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent; and Professor Timothy Garton Ash, historian and author.

From Europe:

Ernst Uhrlau, former head of the German federal intelligence service, the BND; Christophe Bigot, director of strategy for French surveillance agency Directorate General for External Security; Ingvar Akesson, former director general of Sweden’s surveillance agency, the FRA; Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator; Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chair of the EU’s Article 29 Working Party, which deals with data protection issues; Dr Giuseppe Busia, secretary general of the Italian data protection authority; and Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch data protection authority.

From Australia and Canada:

David Irvine, former chief of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation; Richard Fadden, Canadian government national security adviser and deputy minister at the Department of National Defense, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; Kent Roach, professor of law at the University of Toronto; and Jacques Fremont, president, Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

Leading the entire conference was former British M16 spy chief Sir John Scarlett, according to The Intercept, who led talks about how the leaked information on the bulk data collection programs by Snowden had changed the landscape of government surveillance.

apple tim cookApple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California February 13, 2015.

“Away from the fetid heat of political posturing and populist headlines, I heard some unexpected and surprising comments from senior intelligence voices, including that ‘cold winds of transparency’ had arrived and were here to stay,” investigative reporter Duncan Cambell told The Intercept after attending the event.

“Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’ and providing more information about intelligence activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary.”

As to why both Apple and Google sent representatives to the conference, the two tech companies have publically voiced their concerns about government surveillance programs such as PRISM — a program to gather data from tech companies — after facing criticism for their perceived involvement in the handing over private information to the US government.

Apple, in particular, has faced public pressure from the NSA and FBI to make its iPhones and encrypted data more accessible to law enforcement, while Apple CEO Tim Cook has criticized the idea of installing any software back-doors on its devices, stating that “Everyone has a right to privacy and security.”


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