By Brendan Sasso - 06/07/13 01:26 AM EDT
Major technology companies are denying involvement in a top-secret National Security Agency program to collect user data.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the program, called PRISM, allows the government to access user's emails, videos, audio, photographs and documents.
The Post reported that the government is tapping directly into the central servers of nine U.S. Internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple and PalTalk.
But the companies are denying any involvement in the program.
"We have never heard of PRISM," Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said in an emailed statement. "We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order."
Google also said it has no knowledge of the program and said it does not have a "back door" for the government to access its users' data.
"We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers," Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, said. "When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law."
Yahoo said it does "not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network."
News of PRISM came on the heels of a separate report that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans. But unlike the court order for phone records, PRISM reportedly gives the NSA access to the actual contents of users' communications.
An administration official emphasized that the program does not target people in the Unites States.
"The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress," the official said. "It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about U.S. persons."
—Updated at 9:58 p.m.