Google, Apple, Facebook & AOL Deny Participating In Alleged NSA “PRISM” Program

Source: Washington Post, The Guardian

Source: Washington Post, The Guardian

Both the Washington Post and The Guardian are out with stories saying that several major Internet companies gave the US National Security Agency direct access to user data on their servers by participating in what’s been named as the PRISM program. But, Google, Apple & Facebook flat-out deny being in that program, while Yahoo and Microsoft have issued general denials.

Google, it denied participation in PRISM to us, when asked specifically about the program, plus gave us the standard statement it has been issuing:

Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data.

We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully.

From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.”

Similarly to Google, Facebook specifically ruled out that it is part of PRISM and also told us:

Protecting the privacy of our users and their data is a top priority for Facebook.

We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers.

When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.

That doesn’t rule out PRISM specifically, as Google and Apple do, but I’ve reached out to Facebook for a clarification to see if it can be more specific.

CNBC has tweeted Apple saying (and AllThingsD has the same statement):

“We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers.”

AOL said in a blog post:

We do not have any knowledge of the Prism program. We do not disclose user information to government agencies without a court order, subpoena or formal legal process, nor do we provide any government agency with access to our servers.

Yahoo has sent us this general denial:

Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.

That’s not specifically denying PRISM, but we’re checking on that. Both Google and Facebook originally had general denials that, when asked further, were expanded to specifically name PRISM.

Microsoft has sent us this general denial:

We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis.

In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers.

If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.

That’s not specifically denying PRISM, and Microsoft said that the statement above is all that it’s providing, when asked specifically about PRISM. I suspect it does mean for it to be a denial of PRISM involvement, but we’ll see if the company gets more specific.

The last company named, PalTalk, has issued a “no comment” according to VentureBeat.

For more on the story, see our overview article, Scope of Alleged Spying On Americans’ Internet Activity Massive, “Beyond Orwellian”. See also developing coverage here on Techmeme.

Related Topics: Apple | Channel: Consumer | Google: Privacy | Legal: PRISM | Legal: Privacy | Top News

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Jared

    Of course they all deny it, it’s a TS//SI program. There are probably very few people at these companies that know of its existence, and those that do know about it can’t say anything.

  • Michael Ellis Day

    There’s a lot of elbow room for plausible deniability in those denials. “We have never heard of PRISM” may simply mean “no one ever used that acronym to anyone at our company.” And “we do not provide the government with direct access” may mean “we don’t hold the front door open for them, but if they stand near the window and look inside, we choose not to notice it.”

    On the other hand, each of these companies must take a longer view than any administration — they want to think decades ahead, not just as far as the next election. It’s hard to imagine them being intimidated by a government agency too easily, especially knowing this would come out eventually. If they’re cooperating with the NSA it hurts their standing with every non-US market, and every other government would want the same privileges. Then their product becomes swiss cheese and they’re out of business altogether anyway.

    I can see a really strong argument either way and no clue to work out which one is more accurate.

  • http://jobappplus.com/ Alex Miklin

    Interesting.

  • apfwebs

    Google cares deeply about user privacy. (Your name, please?)

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