Following a report from the New York Times that implied that several companies had provided data to the government via "secure portals," Google's chief legal officer David Drummond has taken to Google+ to strenuously deny the allegation. Drummond writes, "We cannot say this more clearly—the government does not have access to Google servers—not directly, or via a back door, or a so-called drop box."
It should be noted that the New York Times report didn't specifically say Google had participated in such a system, but did report that Google had "discussed" such a plan — though it did report that Facebook had built "a system for requesting and sharing" information. The report has led many to wonder if Google and other companies were splitting hairs with regard to their policies concerning government access — the repeated use of the phrase "no direct access" by every company involved looked like a red flag that left room for other ways the government could have accessed user data.
"We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law."
Drummond's comments follow those of CEO Larry Page (which Drummond co-signed), who also denied having any knowledge of the PRISM program before news surfaced earlier this week. Drummond's latest statement again notes that Google responds to individual requests for information and points out that Google "frequently pushes back" on such requests.
Drummond's full statement follows:
We cannot say this more clearly—the government does not have access to Google servers—not directly, or via a back door, or a so-called drop box. Nor have we received blanket orders of the kind being discussed in the media. It is quite wrong to insinuate otherwise. 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. And we have taken the lead in being as transparent as possible about government requests for use information.Update: Yonatan Zunger, Chief Architect for Google+, has reiterated and expanded on Google's statement in an in-depth post on Google+.