Tech firms mount defence on spying claims

THE INTERNET companies at the centre of an international snooping row yesterday hit back at criticism over their roles in the scandal.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond both denied that their firms are complicit in the US Prism programme, which reportedly gives spy agencies access to millions of people’s data held by Facebook, Google and other technology firms.

“We don’t work directly with the [US National Security Agency] or any other programme to pro-actively give any information, no one has approached us. None of these agencies have any kind of direct access where they can plug into our services,” Zuckerberg told shareholders at Facebook’s annual meeting yesterday.

Meanwhile, Drummond asked the US government to allow Google to reveal the number of data requests it receives from officials, in a bid to assuage users’ fears.

“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide,” Drummond wrote in an open letter to the FBI.

The two companies’ claims that they do their upmost to protect their users’ personal information have been tested in the last week by revelations about the Prism programme, which was revealed by former CIA employee Edward Snowden. The British spy agency GCHQ has been dragged into the scandal due to reports that it also uses Prism.

• Zuckerberg attempted to win disgruntled shareholders back on his side yesterday by admitting that Facebook’s shares in the last year had dismayed him but saying that he was focused on long-term value. “We understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the performance of the stock and we are too,” he said. “I care a lot about the business and increasing revenue and profit for the company.”