Facebook CEO denies knowledge of NSA's PRISM program

Mark Zuckerberg says press reports alleging that the social network gave the government access to its servers are "outrageous."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg James Martin/CNET

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Friday that his company has never participated in a program to give any government direct access to its servers.

The categorical denial, posted to Facebook, comes a day after The Guardian and The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency has backdoor access, through a secret program called PRISM, to nine major Internet companies including the social network.

"I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM," Zuckerberg wrote in a post published to his Facebook profile. "Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the U.S. 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."

The remarks echo those of Google CEO Larry Page who also Friday denied any involvement with the NSA's PRISM program.

PRISM allegedly gives NSA analysts access to confidential user data hosted by Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Google, Facebook, and others. A majority of the Internet companies named in the NSA presentation obtained by the papers have denied any knowledge of the program's existence.

Commenters on Zuckerberg's posts are split in whether they believe the CEO to be telling the whole truth and nothing but or merely choosing his words wisely. Susan Beebe, a social media manager at Tyson Foods, repeated a sentiment shared by others blindly supporting Facebook's chief. "Awesome - rock on Zuck!!," she wrote.

But Mark Atwood, a director of open-source evangelism at Hewlett-Packard, and others are far less trusting. Atwood wrote, "I don't trust that answer, as all such FISA orders and NSLs and other such government demands have an attached gag order, e.g. it would be *illegal* for Zuck to admit that Facebook is complying with a data collection demand. He is required, by law, to *lie* about it. Thus, this claim cannot be trusted." At the time of publication, the comment has been liked nearly 500 times by other Facebook users.

Zuckerberg's full response is included below.

I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the U.S. 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.

We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It's the only way to protect everyone's civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.

 

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