Google has denied involvement in a U.S. government surveillance program called Prism since news broke Thursday that the National Security Agency has been accessing the servers of some of the largest Internet companies, but now company executives insist they had never heard of the program.
“We had not heard of a program called Prism until yesterday,” said Google CEO Larry Page and chief legal officer David Drummond in a Friday afternoon blog post. “We have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers,” they stressed.
“The U.S. government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” the executives added.
Reports suggesting that Google is providing open-ended access to its users’ data are false, period, the company said.
Also, reports claiming that Verizon has received orders to hand over millions of users’ call records are also news to the company, Page and Drummond said.
News of the Prism surveillance efforts broke on Thursday in the Washington Post and the Guardian. The surveillance is reported to have taken place since 2007 to mine the data of some of the major Internet companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Apple and Facebook, in an effort to investigate foreign threats to the U.S.
Under its official privacy policies, Google does share personal user information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google “if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable government request,” among other circumstances.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg followed suit later in the afternoon, offering a similar denial in a public post on Facebook. “Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the U.S. or any other government direct access to our servers,” he wrote.
“We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received,” he wrote. “We hadn’t even heard of Prism before yesterday.”
Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org