Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has hit back at claims made by Julian Assange that Google is connected to the US government.
Schmidt has responded to the allegations made in Assange's new book "When Google met WikiLeaks," by labelling the WikiLeaks founder "very paranoid."
Recalling an encounter between Schmidt and Assange in 2011, the book claims that the search engine giant is controlled by the US government. On a separate occasion, Assange has also accused Google of being essentially a privatised National Security Agency (NSA).
In an interview with ABC earlier this week, Schmidt vehemently denied the accusations.
"Julian is very paranoid about things. Google never collaborated with the NSA and in fact, we've fought very hard against what they did," Schmidt said. "We have taken all of our data, all of our exchanges, and we fully encrypted them so no one can get them, especially the government."
Julian Assange is now living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, where he has been residing for more than two years as he awaits diplomatic asylum. The Australian national is avoiding extradition to Sweden where he is wanted over alleged sexual offences, which he denies. Assange also fears extradition to the US, where he could be tried for espionage for his involvement in the release of classified documents.
As the Ecuadoran Embassy only occupies the ground floor of the building, British police remain in the areas where Ecuador's jurisdiction does not extend; meaning Assange could be arrested if he leaves his apartment.
Despite this, Schmidt has used the recent spat to aim a thinly-veiled attack on Assange's living arrangements, claiming that he is "writing from the, shall we say, luxury lodgings of the local embassy in London."