Apple, Facebook, Google Deny Participation in U.S. Spying Program Said to Engage Top Internet Companies

The Washington Post droped a bombshell story this evening that nine leading U.S. internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple are engaged with the NSA and the FBI in a classified program called PRISM established in 2007:

PrismFirsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

The WaPo adds:

The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — address packets, device signatures and the like — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

But the PRISM program appears more nearly to resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over “exponential growth” in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.

The Guardian reports that Apple, Google, and Facebook are denying participation or any knowledge of the program:

An Apple spokesman said: "We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order," he said.

Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, said: "We do not provide any government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinise any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law."

A Google spokesman said: "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 'back door' for the government to access private user data."


  1. Brian says

    If I remember correctly, it’s against the law to confirm your participation or otherwise acknowledge being asked about the program. That’s why Verizon has only said, “We will not be commenting on this matter” in regards to the FISA warrant that was disclosed in The Guardian early this morning.

  2. Mike says

    Yeah, the thing is, Verizon denied everything before, as did AT&T, and the NSA when asked directly about collecting domestic data. The secret laws are so secret that they make it illegal for anyone to actually tell you when the government is snooping on you. Look at librarians that face imprisonment for divulging that the government has asked to see your library records.

  3. MajorTom says

    And it is entirely possible those companies are not knowingly providing the data. The government may be able to monitor them without their knowledge or consent. Oh, btw… Hello, Mr. Government Intelligence Monitor! (If they’re watching, might as well give them a shout out.)

  4. anon says

    FISA restrictions do not apply to voluntary activities like PRISM, but companies would be likely to deny participation given the bad PR involved.

  5. Jeff says

    Not too surprised especially Facebook. Tell us where you work Jeff, tell us where you went to school Jeff. Jeff we think you are from Jerusalem like your friend Jacob, or maybe you are from Dublin like your friend Sean or are you from Toronto like your friend Li. What books have you read, What movies do you like, what music do you listen to. Really subtle. Cant read between lines FB.

  6. Jeff says

    Not too surprised especially Facebook. Tell us where you work Jeff, tell us where you went to school Jeff. Jeff we think you are from Jerusalem like your friend Jacob, or maybe you are from Dublin like your friend Sean or are you from Toronto like your friend Li. What books have you read, What movies do you like, what music do you listen to. Really subtle. Cant read between lines FB.

  7. Jake says

    Time to learn piano boys, if every keystroke could be monitored. Andy, maybe you should close up shop as a public service, unless you think you’re too small to be noticed. We jump from early gay paranoia to this?

  8. TruthSerum says

    I’ll play along…let’s say it is true…what exactly is the fear? and please don’t start your response with “They” because that’s just a red flag for the crazy conspiracy theorists…what is the true fear that the government will have access to the same info that pretty much all the big companies already have?

  9. Gus says

    This sudden new outrage is funny. This “choke point” stuff was reported years ago.

    By the way America, Walmart knows what color underwear you are wearing.

  10. ratbastard says

    I shill and true believer posts on here scare me. What’s wrong with your government engaging in massive and highly sophisticated spying and data mining of all modern forms of communication, including social networking? What’s wrong with your government giving itself vague and incredibly intrusive laws that allow it to do these things,absent a normal court warrant [sometimes a warrant issued from a very secret ‘spy’ court is required, often no warrant is required]?

    And what’s wrong with a president who campaigned AGAINST these intrusive laws and ‘acts’ like the Patriot Act, but who has in-fact GREATLY EXPANDED them once he came into office? Seriously?

    And NY State is possibly about to pass a law that makes it a FELONY to ‘harass’ or give a hard time to a police officer. That’s correct, it’s worded that vaguely. Where are the ‘progressives’? Is it because we have a ‘progressive’ president and NY has a ‘progressive’ governor?

    What’s going on is technology is now allowing law enforcement, intelligence agencies,even private corporations, to data mine, spy, track and know more about you and your life than most people would want them to know. We are fast approaching the moment when there there is no privacy. We may have already reached that point. It’s all about CONTROL. And if you think none of this result in serious abuses, you’re crazy. And if you think, well, I have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong, you’re dangerously naive.

    Reading what the gay ‘progressive’ zombies and party hacks [useful idiots] on here are post I imagine must have been similar to what people heard Fascist and nazi party hacks and shills must have said 75+ years ago, or what Marxist, Maoist and communist shills and hacks have and still do say.

  11. ratbastard says

    And it should be obvious to any intelligent person that intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA have backdoors into EVERYTHING. EVERY bit of data in sucked up and mined, legally or illegally. Most likely they actually fund, even operate, various businesses such as antivirus software companies and put out freeware and shareware software in order to gain access to data, including yours. Then there’s google, facebook, etc. It’s impossible to exaggerate the value of the data, including very private that people willing and freely give, when using the internet. The advent of widespread use of smartphones has added a new angle, mobility, and the ability for people’s movements to be easily tracked, let alone the huge amount of private data they put on their smartphones.

    And every time a terrorist ‘outrage’ or some other atrocity, man-made or natural, occurs, they are used to get laws passed that give your government more power and control, and to chip away at time honored constitutional rights.

    But there are the usual posters on here who make mocking posts about how none of this is any big deal. Don’t worry your little head about it. Take your medication and mind altering substances of your choice. JO to internet porn. Just click on the story about some old actress dying or the one about Madonna and Lady Gaga. Watch a movie or cable TV. Go shopping. Don’t worry about the other stuff. Everything’s cool.

  12. says

    Well, it isn’t that big of a deal… until it is. Nobody can be sure what the silver bullet will turn out to be, the telecoms should have already been busted for this when they were caught in 2006, and 2003.

    So it isn’t a big deal until it is, because everything keeps swimming along, I don’t see hordes of child molesters, drug dealers or domestic terrorists being brought in, so it’s safe to say that this spying isn’t very effective.

    Also, you gotta root yourself in reality, everyone is more or less spied on now anyway, the only way for that to change is for a large majority of people to understand the consequences and impact of spying. There are lots of people in America that have no computer or internet access, spying will never matter to them.

    So if you really hate spying, you should help bring attention to it, because as I already said, IT ISN’T A BIG DEAL UNTIL IT IS.

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