Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg speak out on PRISM, say they never heard of it

Larry Page
Larry Page at Google IO 2013

Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg weren't content to let spokespeople speak for their companies' policies, and the two bosses took separate measures today to address the recently revealed PRISM data mining program and whether their firms were privy to it.

First up was the Google CEO, who with David Drummond, the company's chief legal office, wrote a blog post titled "What the..." to give Google users "the facts."

"[We] have not joined in any program that would give the U.S. government - or any other government - direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a 'back door' to information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday."

The pair went on to say that the company's legal team scrutinizes all requests for user data, and any handover to governments is done in accordance with the law.

In the and out of the dark

They specifically addressed the court order Verizon received to turn in customer call records, saying they've never heard of such a broad directive and were in fact surprised to learn orders such as it existed. The duo also denied Google participates in a similar practice.

"Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users' internet activity on such a scale is completely false."

To wrap it up, the CEO and CLO said that "this episode" confirms a belief Google has long held; the need for greater transparency.

The blog cited the company's Transparency Reports, which it regularly publishes to enumerate the National Security Letters it receives asking for user data. Google has published these since 2009.

"[We] understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens' safety - including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish."

Zuck weighs in

While we're not friends with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, we were able to check out his statement addressing PRISM:

"I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

"Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the U.S. 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, like the one Verizon reportedly received.
And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday."

There's that "direct access" again.

Like Google, Facebook reviews all government data requests were filed properly and follow the applicable laws, "and then only provide information that is required by law."

"We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure," Zuckerberg said, before ending with a PSA.

"We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It's the only way to protect everyone's civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term."

An Apple spokesman came out Thursday saying the Cupertino company hadn't heard of PRISM either.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.