The Next Web is noting that the Washington Post has quietly backtracked on its original claim
that tech companies "participated knowingly" in the PRISM spying program. And, at the same time, some of the denials appear to be getting stronger. Google's CEO, Larry Page, posted a blog post with the interesting title, What the ...?
First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.
Second, 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. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.
Mark Zuckberberg has now posted a similar denial
Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday.
When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.
Some have pointed out that these claims can still be read carefully to mean that other forms of data access potentially did happen, though some of the direct claims are pretty strong. It's also noteworthy that Page and Zuckerberg seem to mimic each other's word usage. Furthermore, it does seem odd that the President more or less confirmed the existence of the program, which all these tech companies are denying. Does that mean that something else is going on? Is the NSA doing this without letting the companies know? It's certainly unclear at this point, but it's going to come out eventually.