The leaders of the country’s largest technology companies are apparently taking personally allegations that they are cooperating in a covert program that funnels users’ information to the government.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Larry Page have responded to media reports on the Internet surveillance program PRISM. Both deny having any knowledge of the program before yesterday and say that they have given no one “direct access to our servers.”
According to The Washington Post, a top-secret document describes Facebook and Google as corporate partners in a program that allows the National Security Agency and the FBI to track foreign targets by collecting data directly from Internet companies’ servers.
Several companies named in the document have denied involvement in PRISM.
In a blogpost titled “What the…?” Google co-founder Larry Page and chief legal officer David Drummond said the “level of secrecy” around US surveillance procedures was undermining “freedoms we all cherish.”
“First, we have not joined any program that would give the US government – or any other government – direct access to our servers. Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called Prism until yesterday,” they wrote.
“Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process.”
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg did likewise in a statement posted online later in the day.
“Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers,” he said.
“We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk… And if we did, we would fight it aggressively.”
Zuckerberg also called for greater transparency. “We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.”
Google, Facebook and other technology firms have vehemently denied that they knowingly took part in a secret program called PRISM that gave the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI backdoors into servers.
Called PRISM, the program involves the NSA accessing the emails, documents, photographs and other sensitive data of users from all nine involved companies, according to a PowerPoint presentation. The PowerPoint was provided by a whistleblower in the intelligence services.
Microsoft, Yahoo, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple are also party to the program, the report alleges. Dropbox is reportedly “coming soon,” while the PowerPoint document reveals that Apple held out for five years before finally relenting.
Obama confirmed the existence of the scheme Friday and said Congress was “fully apprised” of the situation and that it was being conducted legally with a “whole range of safeguards involved”, reports the Guardian.