When the The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency routinely gathers private emails, photos, videos, credit card transactions and phone records from top tech companies, the knee-jerk response from Valley moguls was denial. Mark Zuckerberg said the accusations were ‘outrageous;’ Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote a blog post titled, “What the…”
Less than 24 hours later, they’ve quaffled — and it turns out Twitter is the only giant with it’s hands completely clean.
Google, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Apple and Paltalk all negotiated user data with the government under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to the New York Times. Twitter refused to participate. Most of the companies were cautious in only responding to specific FISA requests, as opposed to giving NSA all-purpose access to user databases. Facebook built a segregated system just for handling NSA data.
Individual FISA requests, unfortunately, can range from information about individual citizens to logs of general search terms, although David Drummond has since followed up with his initial blog post by noting that Google’s legal team “frequently pushes back” when requests are overly broad.
Last year, there were 1,865 NSA requests. How many of those requests were denied remains a mystery.
So what’s pundits’ reactions? Josh Constine of TechCrunch asserts that the program “may have benefited citizens rather than being to their detriment.” Another TechCrunch writer, Jon Evans, shows his radical colors and freaks out that “we’ll need to start encrypting our our communications all the way from sender to recipient.” The New York Times’ editorial board ruffled its weathers and quietly amended its controversial editorial line that the Obama Administration has “now lost all credibility,” to “…lost all credibility on this issue.” The Washington Post’s Emi Kolawole cryptically posits that “we may know more about the NSA’s PRISM program than we do about what the Valley’s next cutting-edge technology will be.”
Meanwhile, tech pessimist’s Jaron Lanier and Julian Assange — who have both predicted dystopian tech privacy issues — are just rolling their eyes and saying ‘I told you so.’