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Internet giants deny letting government snoop on servers

June 10, 2013

The world’s largest Internet companies — and some of the biggest purveyors of data for online advertising — are denying published reports that they provide the National Security Agency access to their servers for intelligence and counterterrorism purposes under a program called “Prism.” As reports, the companies implicated so far include AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

“We have never heard of Prism,” an Apple spokesman reportedly told The Washington Post. In a statement, AOL similarly said, “We do not have any knowledge of the Prism program.” Other giants of the Web, including Microsoft and Google, said they do comply with government subpoenas for data, but don’t provide systematic access to their servers. Facebook said it only complies with narrow requests for information.

On Friday, President Obama argued that the government’s efforts are much narrower than reports in newspapers such as The Guardian and The Washington Post have alleged, saying “I think we’ve struck the right balance.” But suggestions that big Internet companies are giving government agencies access to customer information and even helping them search their servers is a PR nightmare, reports.

Still, the charges will likely have little impact on consumer behavior or the bottom lines of the companies in question. Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, says that consumers will “shrug their shoulders and accept that this is the reality of communicating in America following the Patriot Act.”

Yesterday, 29-year-old Edward Snowden acknowledged in an interview in The Guardian that he was the source of leaks. The former CIA employee, who most recently worked for the computer consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton — working with the National Security Agency — reportedly said he did it to end what he sees as an excessively intrusive surveillance system. — Greg Beaubien


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