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Internet giants deny granting US "direct access" to servers

Spying

By Reuters

Posted on 7 Jun 2013 at 09:01

Major tech companies including Apple, Google and Facebook have said they don't provide any government agency with "direct access" to their servers, contradicting a Washington Post report.

The newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency and the FBI are "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading US internet companies" through a secret program known as PRISM, and extracting massive amounts of data including audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs.

It named nine companies, including Apple, AOL, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, as having joined the secret program. Twitter is absent from the list.

Google said that, despite previous reports that it had forged a "back door" for the government, it had never provided any such access to user data.

Microsoft said it doesn't voluntarily participate in any government data collection and only complies "with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers".

"We have never heard of PRISM," said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. "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."

Asked whether Apple joined the NSA-FBI data collection program, Apple declined to comment beyond its brief statement.

The Washington Post reported that Apple held out for more than five years after PRISM enlisted its first corporate partner, in May 2007, for "unknown reasons".

"We do not provide any government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers," Facebook's chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement. "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."

Yahoo said in a statement that it "takes users' privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network."

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User comments

"We do not provide direct access to our servers"

Sounds like marketing speak for "But we do hand over anything when they tell us to!"

By Mr_Flynn on 7 Jun 2013

Plausible deniability

The way it works is that some chap comes into the office and says 'could you help us out' and the IT company says 'no not without a court order' then the IT company makes a human choice and may leave the chap alone in the office where he can then access what he is looking for.

Also note 'direct access' if MS et al knew their security was being breached by US state dept they could choose to pretend they didn't notice - they could then say hand on heart they were not allowing 'direct access'

As a side point interesting to note that many data mining places went private after the cold war as they had spent the cold war hacking into computers looking for data. When the cold war ended they used the same skills for data mining (legitimately)

By simontompkins on 7 Jun 2013

Bilderberg Group

Whats not to say google execs who are attending will agree at this conference that they will give the UK government full access to their servers after all its a secretive gathering of the so called great and good, not good for democracy really.

George Orwell's 1984, have we reached that point where we are being monitored secretly by the state? or have I got it wrong, PC Pro readers I would like to read your thoughts.

By Chrisfjr1300 on 7 Jun 2013

***Chrisfjr1300*** sounds like you might be pretty much spot on-One wonders if China & Hong kong offer greater freedoms and Civil libaties

By invalidscreenname on 7 Jun 2013

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