Business, Economics and Jobs

PRISM: Apple, Facebook, Microsoft ... Who released which data?


A Google user online in a cybercafe in Brasilia, on April 09, 2008.



The number of technology companies who complied with the United States government's secret requests for user data — as revealed by The Washington Post — is growing longer by the day.

More from GlobalPost: #AskSnowden: NSA hacker Edward Snowden takes your questions

The government's requests were made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but civil rights advocates have since accused the agencies involved in the PRISM program of spying.

Here's where things stand as of Tuesday.  

Company: Apple

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: 4,000 to 5,000 between Dec. 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013.

Privacy policy:

 "It may be necessary − by law, legal process, litigation, and/or requests from public and governmental authorities within or outside your country of residence − for Apple to disclose your personal information. We may also disclose information about you if we determine that for purposes of national security, law enforcement, or other issues of public importance, disclosure is necessary or appropriate."

Company: Facebook

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: 10,000 over the last six months of 2012.

Privacy policy

"We may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so. This may include responding to legal requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law in that jurisdiction, affects users in that jurisdiction, and is consistent with internationally recognized standards."

Company: Yahoo

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: 12,000 -13,000 over six months ending May 31, 2013. 

Yahoo took the US government to court over PRISM several years ago but lost the case. Twitter, meanwhile, refused to cooperate.

Here Yahoo's statement about PRISM, which includes their privacy policy for user data: 

"We want to set the record straight about stories that Yahoo! has joined a program called PRISM through which we purportedly volunteer information about our users to the US government and give federal agencies access to our user databases. These claims are false. Yahoo! has not joined any program in which we volunteer to share user data with the US government. We do not voluntarily disclose user information. The only disclosures that occur are in response to specific demands. And, when the government does request user data from Yahoo!, we protect our users. ... We carefully scrutinize each request, respond only when required to do so, and provide the least amount of data possible consistent with the law."

Company: Microsoft (includes Skype)

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: 6,000 to 7,000 over six months ending Dec. 31, 2012.

Privacy policy

"You consent and agree that Microsoft may access, disclose, or preserve information associated with your use of the services, including (without limitation) your personal information and content, or information that Microsoft acquires about you through your use of the services (such as IP address or other third-party information) when Microsoft forms a good faith belief that doing so is necessary (a) to comply with applicable law or to respond to legal process from competent authorities; (b) to enforce this agreement or protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers; or (c) to help prevent a loss of life or serious physical injury to anyone."

Company: Google (includes YouTube)

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: Unknown. Google has plead ignorance of the program, but that doesn't necessarily mean PRISM did not obtain its data.

Privacy policy

"We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:  meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request; enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations; detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues; protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public as required or permitted by law."

Company: AOL

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: Unclear. Like Google, AOL denies knowledge of the program, saying in a company statement: "We do not have any knowledge of the Prism program. We do not disclose user information to government agencies without a court order, subpoena or formal legal process, nor do we provide any government agency with access to our servers."

Privacy policy

"The contents of your online communications, as well as other information about you as an AOL user, may be accessed and disclosed under the following circumstances: in response to lawful governmental requests or legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena), in other circumstances in which AOL has a good faith belief that a crime has been or is being committed by an AOL user, that an emergency exists that poses a threat to the safety of you or another person, when necessary either to protect the rights or property of AOL, or for us to render the service you have requested."

Company: Paltalk

What, you don't know about Paltalk? OK, actually, not that many people do. The Washington Post identified it as a small company providing voice, video and text services. Its voice-over-internet protocol is believed to have been used to circumvent Middle East authorities during the 2011 Arab Spring unrest, which may explain its importance to the US. 

Number of data requests supplied to PRISM: Unknown. The company told The Washington Post they too were unaware of the program:

 "We have not heard of PRISM. Paltalk exercises extreme care to protect and secure users’ data, only responding to court orders as required to by law. Paltalk does not provide any government agency with direct access to its servers.”

Privacy policy:

"Paltalk will fully cooperate with law enforcement in investigating or requesting information with respect to suspected criminal or other activity and, notwithstanding any provision herein to the contrary, may release your name and other information to the appropriate authorities for that purpose, with or without a subpoena."