Google CEO Larry Page has taken to the company's blog today to address PRISM, the secret data mining project of the NSA and FBI that came into public focus yesterday. In a letter addressed directly to Google's customers, Page echoes Google's official statement on the matter, insisting his company does not provide government authorities with "back door" access to Google customer data.
"We have not joined any program that would give the US government — or any other government — direct access to our servers," he writes. Much like Apple, he says that Google came to learn about PRISM yesterday for the first time along with the American public. "We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday." The statement's careful wording of "direct access" (a constant theme in responses to PRISM) is notable, however. Some theories suggest PRISM may involve a contractor or intermediary between government agencies and tech companies holding the information they desire.
"We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist."
Google readily admits that it provides governments with requested data "in accordance with the law," but says there's a fine line as to how much customer information it's willing to give up. "Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process." The letter, co-signed by David Drummund, who serves as Google's chief legal counsel, doesn't stop there. "Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received," it reads. Google is said to be "very surprised" that orders of such broad scope exist. "Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ internet activity on such a scale is completely false."
The statement goes on to highlight Google's continued focus on transparency, suggesting "there needs to be a more transparent approach" to government data inquiries. Page admits that surveillance can be a useful tool in protecting the public, but damningly concludes "the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish."