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16 Jul 2013

Human Rights First letter and Vigeo statement re tech companies and US Govt's PRISM program - and company responses / non-responses

See below for Human Rights First letter and company responses.  Recent updates on this issue:

"Responding to government legal demands for customer data," Brad Smith, General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft 16 Jul 2013

"Yahoo Wins Court Fight In Data Collection Case," Tami Abdollah, Huffington Post, 16 Jul 2013

"How the NSA scandal hurts the economy", Arvind Ganesan, director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch, on Global Public Square blog, CNN.com


Following revelations in June 2013 that the US National Security Administration obtained private user data from several technology companies, Human Rights First wrote to AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Pal Talk, Skype, Yahoo!, and YouTube.  It urged them to continue to press the US government to allow them to disclose PRISM requests as part of their regular reports on government requests.  It also described ways in which companies can inform the public of how their data and privacy is safeguarded.  Read the Human Rights First press release and full letter.

On 4 July 2013, Vigeo issued a statement: “After Apple, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Yahoo! are accused of violating customers’ privacy, Vigeo reviews its rating on the Human Rights performance of the companies involved.”  (The statement also refers to the other companies named in the context of PRISM).

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies to respond to these items.

AOL: Referred to its June 18 blog post on "AOL's Commitment to User Privacy"

Apple: Did not respond

Facebook: Did not respond

Google: Declined to respond

Microsoft response: “Microsoft strongly believes that additional transparency would help everyone understand and debate these important issues.  We’ll continue to take whatever steps we can to advocate for additional transparency.  That’s why we sought and gained permission from the FBI to publish additional data on aggregate demands from government for customer data (http://blogs.technet.com/b/microsoft_on_the_issues/archive/2013/06/14/microsoft-s-u-s-law-enforcement-and-national-security-requests-for-last-half-of-2012.aspx), and why we filed a legal petition with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking permission to publish more detailed data.”

Paltalk response: “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.”

Yahoo!: Did not respond

Note: Skype is part of Microsoft so we did not contact it separately; You Tube is part of Google so we did not contact it separately.

Company Responses


No Response


No Response

Meta (formerly Facebook)

No Response

Google (part of Alphabet)

No Response

Microsoft View Response
Paltalk (part of AVM Software) View Response