NSA LAWYER: Tech Companies Knew We Collected Their Data

The general counsel for the National Security Agency dismissed criticism within the tech community on Wednesday, stating that tech firms were fully aware the spying agency was collecting their data, Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian reports.

At a hearing of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that focused on the top-secret PRISM program, Rajesh De indicated that the companies cooperated with “full knowledge” but didn’t likely know the actual name of the now-public program.

“Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,” De said. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.”

One of the earliest leaks to come from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, PRISM allowed the NSA to acquire data from tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo. When it was first revealed, The Washington Post reported that the 702 orders given to tech companies served “as one-time blanket approvals for data acquisition and surveillance on selected foreign targets for periods of as long as a year.”

All the big tech companies offered fierce denials that’s what happened, and many have sharply criticised the intelligence community. Most recently, Mark Zuckerberg called President Obama about the issue, labelling the U.S. government as more of a “threat,” rather than a champion for the internet.

But De was adamant. In a followup with Ackerman, he said “All 702 collection is pursuant to court directives, so they have to know.”

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