Apple is among the nine technology companies attached to PRISM, the just-leaked government program that reportedly allows the NSA and FBI to access US citizens' sensitive data in total secrecy. There's just one problem: Apple says it's never heard of PRISM. That's according to identical statements provided to both CNBC and The Wall Street Journal.
The Verge has received the same statement, with Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling flatly adding, "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." Clearly the iPhone maker is attempting to get out in front of today's controversy amid outcries against privacy invasion brought on by PRISM and other, ongoing secret initiatives.
Other companies linked to PRISM in a leaked slide presentation are also issuing statements. Google is rejecting claims that the government has a secret path to your data, telling The Washington Post, "From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'back door.'" Google clarified with The Next Web that it does not know about the program and is not participating.
Microsoft tells The Verge that "we provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it." The company is essentially denying involvement in PRISM. Microsoft owns Skype, another company listed as a participant.
Facebook is also getting on the record. "Protecting the privacy of our users and their data is a top priority for Facebook. We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law," said Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan in a statement.
Dropbox also denies allegations that it has agreed to become part of the PRISM program in a statement to The Verge. "We've seen reports that Dropbox might be asked to participate in a government program called PRISM. We are not part of any such program and remain committed to protecting our users' privacy," wrote a Dropbox spokesperson.
A Yahoo spokesperson has provided us with a statement. "Yahoo! takes users' privacy very seriously," it reads. "We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network."
AOL gave The Next Web yet another similar statement: "We do not have any knowledge of the Prism program. We do not disclose user information to government agencies without a court order, subpoena or formal legal process, nor do we provide any government agency with access to our servers."
Paltalk echoes the same, in yet another denial: "We have not heard of PRISM. Paltalk exercises extreme care to protect and secure users' data, only responding to court orders as required to by law. Paltalk does not provide any government agency with direct access to its servers."
Update: The Washington Post has backtracked slightly on its original story. Attempting to explain the disparity between its findings and the statements given by the companies involved, it says:
It is possible that the conflict between the PRISM slides and the company spokesmen is the result of imprecision on the part of the NSA author. In another classified report obtained by The Post, the arrangement is described as allowing "collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations," rather than directly to company servers.