Google flatly denies involvement in PRISM snooping program

CEO Page joins legal counsel in rejecting reports it gave U.S. government back door access to data centers

Google CEO Larry Page strongly denied on Friday that Google allowed the U.S. government back door access to its data centers via a controversial snooping program revealed this week called PRISM.

The Google statement was issued not long after President Obama defended the government’s data collection methods, arguing that there need to be privacy tradeoffs to keep the nation safe.

FAQ: What the NSA phone snooping drama is all about

The program, which reportedly has given the National Security Agency and FBI access to data servers from 9 major U.S. Internet companies, including Facebook, Skype and Google, followed revelations earlier this week that data on all Verizon customers’ calls was being collected by the NSA. Companies including Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are among others that have denied taking part in the PRISM program.

Here’s what Google CEO Page and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote on the official Google blog in a post titled: What the …?

 Dear Google users— You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts. First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. 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. 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. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false. Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.

To comment on this article and other Network World content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.