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Oracle's Ellison downplays threat of NSA database snooping

Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison introduces the company's latest SPARC servers in Redwood Shores, California, March 26, 2013. REUTERS/St
Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison introduces the company's latest SPARC servers in Redwood Shores, California, March 26, 2013. REUTERS/St

By Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oracle Corp CEO Larry Ellison played down concerns on Wednesday about possible government snooping in his business customers' private data.

At an industry conference in San Francisco, an audience member asked the Oracle co-founder what to tell potential Oracle cloud-computing clients who worry that the National Security Agency could access their information.

"To the best of our knowledge, an Oracle database hasn't been broken into for a couple of decades by anybody," Ellison replied. "It's so secure, there are people that complain," he added.

Oracle, Salesforce.com and other major Silicon Valley companies are increasingly offering Internet-based business services for things like human resources, accounting and sales management, in a trend known as cloud computing.

Entrusting software and data management to cloud services can save companies the expense of maintaining their own servers and other IT infrastructure.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government surveillance have increased companies' concerns about privacy and may cost U.S. technology vendors billions of dollars in lost sales, analysts say.

David Litchfield, an established security expert and frequent speaker at top hacking conferences, disagreed with Ellison's comments and said he regularly sees Oracle systems being compromised.

"Of all of the commercial databases, Oracle is the least secure," he told Reuters by email.

The roots of Ellison's software company go back to 1977, when the Central Intelligence Agency contracted him and two co-workers to design a database, codenamed Oracle. The same year, Ellison and his colleagues founded the database company that would eventually be renamed Oracle.

In an interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose in August, Ellison said he believed the NSA's widespread surveillance was essential to preventing terrorism.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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