In online posts today the leaders of Google and Facebook both said they didn’t know anything about the National Security Agency using a program called PRISM to access their users’ data. While neither Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg nor Google’s Larry Page did anything to explain what data they provided to the NSA via other means, they both clearly registered concerns over the tactics the agency was revealed this week to have used to get phone-record data from Verizon customers.
As MIT Technology Review reported today, the court order requiring all Verizon business phone records to be handed over on an ongoing basis shows the NSA using a new interpretation of the Patriot Act (see “NSA Surveillance Reflects a Broader Interpretation of the Patriot Act”). Both Page and Zuckerberg seem to be worried their companies will be subject to similar orders.
Page wrote of the revelation about the Verizon order:
“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… the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”
Zuckerberg, whose post used several phrases very similar to ones appearing in Page’s post, wrote of the Verizon order that:
“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.”
Despite both leaders suggesting they would try to resist similar orders applied against their own companies, were it to happen they wouldn’t be able to talk about it. Orders that come from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, like the one served to Verizon, come with strict non-disclosure clauses.