Google PRISM involvement denied by Larry Page: no “back door” here

Jun 7, 2013
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As the NSA's PRISM program has been unveiled - or leaked, in some cases - Google has taken to the web to make their involvement (or lack thereof) completely transparent. What's been noted this afternoon comes from Google CEO Larry Page and Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, and suggests that until yesterday, Google had "not heard of a program called PRISM."

At the moment it is still true that Google gives information to the government, but as their much-touted Transparency Reports show, they're not all that willing to do so very often. Google's "What the...?" note here suggests that they not only do not participate in programs like PRISM and the broad actions tipped with Verizon, they're vehemently against them.

"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." - Larry Page and David Drummond for Google

This should quell fears that Google was or is a part of the NSA's PRISM program, but what about the Verizon-tagged system revealed earlier this week? Could it be that Google was fully aware of this record-keeping? Page and Drummond say no, not a chance.

"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. " - Larry Page and David Drummond for Google

The final - and perhaps most important - word from this pair representing Google isn't that they're not participating in surveillance at all - that's just silly. Instead it's about how Google wants this watching to go on without a veil of secrecy surrounding it. That's a level of monitoring citizens Google says they can feel ok about.

"And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish." - Larry Page and David Drummond for Google

Good enough for you? Or would you like Google to be more transparent than they are already? How about the NSA? Are you curious about the extents of PRISM and which groups have participated in the effort? Stay tuned!


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