A number of tech giants thought to be involved in the PRISM data-snooping scandal have strongly denied any involvement, as the UK government responds to claims that security service GCHQ is involved.
On Friday, a Guardian and Washington Post investigation claimed the PRISM programme allows the US National Security Agency (NSA) to snoop on data from nine of the top tech giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL.
The duo claims to have verified the authenticity of a PowerPoint presentation in which the PRISM programme is detailed, but tech giants involved have been quick to dismiss the accusations.
In a blogpost entitled "What the ...?", Google's chief executive Larry Page and its chief legal officer David Drummond vehemently denied the claims.
The statement said: "First, we have not joined any programme 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 datacentres. We had not heard of a programme called PRISM until yesterday."
Microsoft was equally keen to speak out about the claims, and in a statement said: "We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers."
AOL said it has no knowledge of the PRISM programme, while Facebook founder Mark Zukerburg posted a blog claiming the reports are outrageous.
He said: "Facebook is not and has never been part of any programme 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... and if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We had not even heard of PRISM before yesterday."
Skype said in a statement that it never gives user data to the government on a voluntary basis and added: "If the government has a broader voluntary national security programme to gather customer data, we do not participate in it."
Paltalk also claimed never to have heard of PRISM and said it "exercises extreme care to protect and secure users' data".
YouTube, Yahoo and Apple were also named as being linked to the PRISM programme by reports last week – all of which had no issued public statements and were unavailable for comment.
Over the weekend, GCHQ was linked with PRISM following reports which claimed it had obtained data via the controversial programme, but ministers have since moved to reassure UK citizens that the service operates within the law and under intense scrutiny.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday, defence secretary William Hague insisted that law-abiding UK citizens had "nothing to fear" and said that intelligence gathering is "governed by a very strong legal framework so [the government] can get the balance right between liberties and privacies of the people and the security of the country".
When pushed, Hague said he could neither confirm or deny any knowledge of the PRISM programme due to its sensitive nature, and said that UK-US intelligence links were forged as long as ago as World War II.
Speaking today, prime minister David Cameron said he was satisfied that intelligence agencies operate within the law and are open to suitable scrutiny.
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