Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and others were all paid by the NSA for their trouble complying with its domestic spying program, according to a new report from the Guardian.
The news source deems this the “first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA.”
Complying with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court ruling, which required the companies to pass on certain information about American’s communications to the spy agency, cost the companies a significant sum, according to the classified document leaked to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“Last year’s problems resulted in multiple extensions to the certifications’ expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for Prism providers to implement each successive extension – costs covered by Special Source Operations,” the document states.
The Guardian contacted these major tech companies to provide details on the cost of compliance:
A Yahoo spokesperson said: “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law.”
Asked about the reimbursement of costs relating to compliance with Fisacourt certifications, Facebook responded by saying it had “never received any compensation in connection with responding to a government data request”.
Google did not answer any of the specific questions put to it, and provided only a general statement denying it had joined Prism or any other surveillance program. It added: “We await the US government’s response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today.”
A spokesperson for Microsoft, which seeks reimbursement from the government on a case-by-case basis, said: “Microsoft only complies with court orders because it is legally ordered to, not because it is reimbursed for the work. We could have a more informed discussion of these issues if providers could share additional information, including aggregate statistics on the number of any national security orders they may receive.”
From a more general standpoint of law enforcement going through legal channels to obtain phone or email records for investigations, it was reported last month that emails can be pulled together rather cheaply, compared to wiretaps, which can cost hundreds of dollars for each month maintained.
Read more details about these compliance costs in The Guardian’s full article.
On Friday, it was revealed that an inspector general’s report found NSA agents knowingly violated some regulations governing its domestic surveillance programs. Documents declassified this week showed the agency had collected thousands of communications from Americans with no terrorist connections.
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