As expected, the recent revelation of the US PRISM surveillance programme has sent technology firms and rights groups scrambling to their public relations podiums to get their sides of the story and opinions on the matter heard.
The fallout continued on Friday, when Google moved to clarify its stance on the matter. The company had been named as one of the prime surveillance targets of PRISM, but according to chief executive Larry Page and legal head David Drummond, the company has hardly been a willing contributor to the surveillance archive.
“First, we have not joined any program that would give the US government - or any other government - direct access to our servers. Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a 'back door' to the information stored in our data centres,” they said.
“We had not heard of a programme called PRISM until yesterday.”
Page and Drummond go on to explain that though the company does get requests for user data occasionally, it has never received the sort of sweeping, large-scale request said to have been made to US telco Verizon and would be shocked had the company been put in such a position.
The Google honchos ended their letter to users with a hope that the entire government data collection process can become more transparent, a sentiment echoed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF attorneys Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm called on congress to resurrect the 'Church Committee', a congressional group formed in the mid-70s to overhaul intelligence-gathering policies and grant stricter privacy protections for users.
“Congress now has a responsibility to the American people to conduct a full, public investigation into the domestic surveillance of Americans by the intelligence communities, whether done directly or in concert with the FBI,” the duo said.
“And it then has a duty to make changes in the law to stop the spying and ensure that it does not happen again.”
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