Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, Google CEO Page: We Didn’t Know About PRISM (statements here)

Google CEO Page and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg have issued strong denials that they worked with the NSA on Verizon PRISM data spying. Full statements here.

aNewDomain.net — A day after news broke that the NSA has been working, via Verizon, to siphon user data from tech company computers — and hours after the first waves of outrage from privacy advocates hit online — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Larry Page each issued statements. The CEOs, speaking separately, say they didn’t know about the PRISM domestic spying project and didn’t even hear about it until yesterday, along with the rest of the world.

See the leaked PRISM slides here, classified U.S. government slides that clearly suggest the NSA is working with “partner” companies including Google, Apple, IBM, Facebook and others to gain access to videos, pictures, email and other data, via a backdoor fiber optic connection. Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg now have issued strong denials, below.

If Verizon was siphoning the data from their servers, as reports suggest, it was working with the NSA without Google and Facebook’s explicit or implicit help, the statements say.

We await further comment from Verizon. Here are the statements from Zuckerberg and Page, below.

Zuckerberg’s statement says:

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 US 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.”

Late yesterday, Google also released a blanket denial to a scandal that had the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling for the formation of a government watchdog committee like the Church Committee, which the Senate formed in 1975. That’s when it came to light that the U.S. had embarked on domestic spying on counter-culture figures and polarizing anti-war and civil rights figures such as the late musician John Lennon and the late civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Read the EFF appeal here. It sounds major alarms.

On Google’s blog, CEO Larry Page wrote a post called “What the … ?” In it, he wrote the following:

Dear Google users — You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, (Google) wanted you to have the facts.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. 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. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”

Here is one of the slides the NSA allegedly leaked to the Washington Post and the UK Guardian suggesting Google and Facebook’s direct involvement. The Obama administration has confirmed the existence of the up-to-now classified program. Find others here. Developing …

Gina Smith contributed to the reporting of this story, which is developing.

Based in Ann Arbor Michigan, Mike Olsen is a tech enthusiast, freelance writer and a senior contributor to aNewDoman.net. Follow his stream on Google+ and email him at MikeO@aNewDomain.net.