Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg denies knowledge of PRISM

8 Jun 2013

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed claims that the social networking platform cooperated with US intelligence bodies like the National Security Agency (NSA) in allowing them to perform surveillance on users via a system called PRISM. He says he hadn’t even heard of PRISM.

In recent days both The Washington Post and The Guardian claimed hi-tech surveillance efforts by the NSA and FBI included demands for phone data from telco Verizon and a system called PRISM which monitored the internet activities of millions of internet users by accessing the servers of nine tech giants including: Yahoo!, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Apple and Google.

The reports prompted groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to claim that such practices had existed for years going back to the Bush Administration and amounted to a zealous misinterpretation of the Patriot Act.

However, the director of National Intelligence for the US Government James R Clapper has dismissed the reports as “containing numerous inaccuracies” and said that the Section 702 provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which facilitates the PRISM system is designed to acquire foreign intelligence information on non-US citizens located outside the States.

Clapper also said that the whistle-blowers who lifted the lid on these activities were putting lives in danger. “Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats,” Clapper said.

Last night a report in The New York Times detailed how various internet giants including Twitter, Facebook and Google worked to discover a balance to both defend user privacy and at the same time cooperate with intelligence agencies to discover threats to national security in the US.

Zuckerberg: ‘We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday’

Also overnight Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hit out at claims that Facebook granted US intelligence agencies access to its servers via PRISM.

“I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM,” he said. “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,” Zuckerberg said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years