Liberty Calling

Google’s Real Secret Spy Program? Secure FTP


Google does not participate in any government program involving a lockbox or other equipment installed at its facilities to transfer court-ordered data to the government, a company spokesman says, refuting with some finality one of the lingering theories about the NSA’s PRISM program.

Instead the company transmits FISA information the old fashioned way: by hand, or over secure FTP.

“When required to comply with these requests, we deliver that information to the US government — generally through secure FTP transfers and in person,” Google spokesman Chris Gaither told Wired. “The US government does not have the ability to pull that data directly from our servers or network.”

The unequivocal statement is meant to set the record straight on information reported and suggested in stories about the PRISM program, which described a system whereby nine internet companies, including Google, Yahoo and Facebook had special equipment installed in their facilities that allowed NSA analysts sitting at their desks to query the data directly.

But Gaither asserted that the company had no such equipment installed.

“We refuse to participate in any program — for national security or other reasons — that requires us to provide governments with access to our systems or to install their equipment on our networks,” he said. “We have been asked to do things in the past and we have declined.”

Stories about PRISM, published by the Guardian and Washington Post, were based on a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation that former NSA system administrator Edward Snowden leaked to them. Initially, the papers reported that PRISM was a bulk-collection program that allowed the National Security Agency to tap directly into the servers of the nine companies to extract audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs of foreign targets.

The CEOs of Google and Facebook denied that the government had a backdoor into their systems or that they provided the government with bulk data. Other companies identified as being part of the program denied participating in it as well.

In the wake of denials, the Post revised its story to say that instead of direct access to servers, the companies had installed special systems that stored data that NSA analysts could directly access from their desktops at Ft. Meade and elsewhere.

Read the rest at Wired, here

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