SAN FRANCISCO -- Google and other technology companies are pushing back against media reports that they gave national intelligence agencies direct access to their servers to turn over emails and other online communication from users.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft each called on the U.S. government Tuesday to make public the number and scope of national security requests.
Google also made it clearer how it transmits data to the federal government. It says it does so through “file transfer protocol,” or FTP, or, in some cases, in person.
When Google receives court orders to turn over information to the government, it uses secure FTP, a secure way of sending encrypted files over the Internet, according to Google spokesman Chris Gaither.
“The U.S. government does not have the ability to pull that data directly from our servers or network,” Gaither said.
“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.”
Wired was the first to report how Google transfers the data. The Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers originally reported that the federal government has direct access to the Web servers of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and others, as part of a classified National Security Agency program called PRISM.
The companies have denied those reports. The government has acknowledged the program, which it says monitors foreign nationals who may pose a threat.
Google’s legal chief, David Drummond, said in a public letter Tuesday that “assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue.”