PRISM Companies Start Denying Knowledge of the NSA Data Collection Program

Abby Ohlheiser
PRISM Companies Start Denying Knowledge of the NSA Data Collection Program

As the NSA surveillance story goes from bad to worse to Philip K. Dick, some of the Silicon Valley companies implicated in the so-called "PRISM" program are denying that they've ever heard of it.

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PRISM, as you probably heard by now, lets the FBI access the central servers of several major companies — Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, and YouTube. From there, they can pretty much look at anything they want, including emails, photos, audio (including voice-chats), and video. Within hours of the astonishing Washington Post scoop, the named companies began releasing statements saying that the PRISM program was news to them, too: 

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Apple: According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple says they've "never heard" of it, adding "We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order." Apple was the most recent company to join the PRISM program, according to a training slideshow published by both the Post and the Guardian. 

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Google: The company sent the following statement to both the Post and the Guardian. It's not quite as strongly worded as those from Apple and Google, the other early birds on the statement front: "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 'backdoor' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'backdoor' for the government to access private user data."

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Facebook: Here's their statement, provided to TechCrunch“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.”

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Yahoo: Also a denial, apparently. 

Yahoo on PRISM, finally: "Yahoo! takes users' privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers..."

— Tim Bradshaw (@tim) June 7, 2013

Microsoft: The company told the Verge that "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.” (for what it's worth, Microsoft owns Skype, so this statement might also reflect their response, too. We'll see if they release their own take on the story, however). 

We'll update here with more statements as they become available.