Tech Companies Deny Letting NSA Have Realtime Access To Their Servers, But Choose Their Words Carefully

from the worth-watching dept

We've already talked about James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence choosing weasel words to pretend they're saying that they weren't spying on Americans when they really were, and now some are arguing that the tech companies are doing the same exact thing. All of the tech companies listed have been denying their involvement, but again, the words are being chosen carefully, and there's a reasonable argument that they're denying certain specific claims while really side-stepping the bigger issue.

Comparing denials from tech companies, a clear pattern emerges: Apple denied ever hearing of the program and notes they “do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order;” Facebook claimed they “do not provide any government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers;” Google said it “does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data”; And Yahoo said they “do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.” Most also note that they only release user information as the law compels them to.

But the PRISM program’s reported access to data and the now repeatedly confirmed widespread access to phone records and other types of digital data appears to be almost exactly what the 2008 Protect America Act (PAA) allows Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts to compel tech companies to do — as many warned around the time of its passage. If tech companies are not providing direct access to their servers but are cooperating with the PRISM program, that leaves at least one other option: Companies are providing intelligence agencies with copies of their data.

Note the fine distinction. Giving the NSA a clone of their data wouldn't be giving them "access to our servers." It would be giving copies to the NSA... and then the NSA could "access" its own servers. And you were wondering why the NSA needed so much space in Utah. If they're basically running a replica of every major big tech company datacenter, it suddenly makes a bit more sense. Of course, at this point there's no evidence that this is necessarily the case -- and some are insisting that the denials are legit, and that the Washington Post's story is not entirely accurate. But... the wording here is extra careful, and the government's report really does seem to indicate that these companies are deeply involved.

By the way, if you'd like to dig in on annotating the various tech companies' denials, someone put them all up at RapGenius, the site for annotating text (not just rap songs).

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2013 @ 9:46am

    Re: Know who is in your computer

    That's a bit of a "whack-a-mole" approach.

    A better recommendation would be to switch to free software, possibly GNU/Linux. Solves all of your problems with applications phoning home in one fell swoop.

    You can be assured that (barring some software bug or cracking) no one else will ever get root access to your machine unless you allow it.

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