US security services have been allowed to access data from the servers of nine major global tech companies including Microsoft, Google and Apple, according to a leaked document obtained by the Guardian and Washington Post.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) has been able to tap into data including emails, videos, photos, voice chats, file transfers and social networking information, according to the report.
It claims that data from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple have all been accessed in the US via the companies' servers.
The information came to light following the leak of a 41-page PowerPoint presentation used to train people on the top-secret programme codenamed PRISM. The Guardian claims to have verified the authenticity of the presentation.
It also claims that the NSA – the world's largest surveillance body – is able to obtain the communications details without having to ask the respective firms and without having to provide a court order.
Despite the report implying that each technology company was aware of PRISM, several denied knowledge of it when questioned by the Post and Guardian.
Google provided a statement in which it insisted it "cares deeply" about users' data and that it "does not have a back door for the government to access private user data".
A senior administration official said in a statement that the law "does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.
"Information collected under this programme is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
"The government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
"This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target."
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