Silicon Valley companies deny reports U.S. government has “direct access” to their servers

Some of the tech industry’s biggest and brightest companies denied incredibly damning and wide-reaching reports Thursday from The Guardian and The Washington Post that alleged the companies participated in a secret program run by the National Security Agency that allowed the government “direct access” to company servers that stored personal data.

The FBI and the National Security Agency have been tracking and collecting photos, emails and personal information from the servers of nine U.S. internet companies in a secret six-year snooping program called PRISM. Those nine companies involved (listed in order of their entry into the program, from earliest to most recent), include Microsoft (s msft), Yahoo (s yhoo), Google (s goog), Facebook (s fb), PalTalk, AOL (s aol), Skype, YouTube, and Apple (s aapl). Dropbox was listed as “coming soon.”

We’ve reached out to all 10 companies for a statement on the report, to see how they respond to the accusations of widspread cooperation with government data collection. We have not yet heard back from AOL. YouTube deferred questions to corporate parent Google, and Skype deferred to corporate parent Microsoft.

We’ll update this when and if we hear back.

Apple categorically denies participation

“We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”

According to the Guardian report, Apple had resisted participation in the program for many years, and had finally joined in 2012, one year after the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.

Facebook said it does not provide direct access

“We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers.  When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”

The Guardian reports Facebook began participating in 2009.

Google “does not have a back door for the government”

“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

This statement was provided to us by a Google spokesperson. The company also has denied participation in PRISM according to other reports.

Paltalk declines to comment

“We have not heard of PRISM. Paltalk exercises extreme care to protect and secure users’ data, only responding to court orders as required to by law. Paltalk does not provide any government agency with direct access to its servers.”

The company, which is an online video chat room community site, provided this statement Friday morning.

Yahoo said it also does not provide direct access

“Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.”

Microsoft said it never voluntarily supplied data

“We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”

Dropbox says it’s not part of PRISM

Dropbox, who was listed as “coming soon” in the NSA presentation, denied it was part of the program: which, of course, nobody actually claimed.
“We’ve seen reports that Dropbox might be asked to participate in a government program called PRISM. We are not part of any such program and remain committed to protecting our users’ privacy.”

This story has been continuously updated as the story progresses. Erica Ogg, Janko Roettgers and Tom Krazit contributed to this report.

Featured photo courtesy Shutterstock user deepspacedave.