IBM: We’ve Never Given Client Data to the NSA

Source: Thinkstock

In an open letter to clients published Friday, International Business Machine Corp. (NYSE:IBM) denies complying with National Security Administration, saying it hasn’t provided the government agency with any client data and would challenge any order by the government do so, according to a Reuters report.

IBM has also said that it hasn’t put any “backdoors” in any of its websites or products, which would allow the government access to client data.

The news follows a similar blog post published last week in which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg issued a similar statement condemning NSA practices. He wrote that, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

The IBM statement, which was issued by Robert Weber, the company’s senior vice president in charge of legal and regulatory affairs, claims that, “IBM hasn’t provided client data to the NSA or any other government agency under any surveillance program involving bulk collection of content or metadata.” He added, “If the U.S. government were to serve a national security order on IBM to obtain data from an enterprise client and impose a gag order that prohibits IBM from notifying that client, IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the gag order through judicial action or other means,” per Reuters.

The letter is the most recent in a series of tech company backlashes against a recent report that the NSA has used websites to break into computers, and is most likely meant to reassure the company’s clients. Experts have estimated that the recent NSA revelations could cost big tech companies like IBM billions of dollars over the next few years if their international clients choose to take their business elsewhere, Time reports.

In its letter, IBM added that its company is different from other companies mentioned in the report because its clients are mainly other businesses and organizations, therefore, the company deals primarily with business data rather than telephone and internet-based communication services.

Similar to Zuckerberg’s harshly-worded post, Weber also criticized the surveillance programs leaked by Snowden. He wrote that, “Governments should not subvert commercial technologies, such as encryption, that are intended to protect business data,” and that the U.S. government should have a “robust debate” regarding surveillance programs.

Companies are finding it necessary to address client and customer concerns about security following the release of a report leaked by Edward Snowden that the NSA has “co-opted” more than 140,000 computers since August of 2007 in order to implant them with spying software. The report was published by the Intercept on Wednesday; the NSA has since responded with a statement claiming that “reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false,” per Reuters.

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