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Twitter Employees Are Just as Shocked About PRISM as You Are Twitter Employees Are Just as Shocked About PRISM as You Are

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Tech

Twitter Employees Are Just as Shocked About PRISM as You Are

If the company was involved, the rank and file sure didn't know about it.

Twitter cofounders Evan Williams (left) and Biz Stone (right) at the Twitter office in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 23, 2010.(Jeff Chiu/AP)

photo of Brian Fung
June 7, 2013

There's still some confusion about who knows what about the National Security Agency's PRISM program. The tech companies allegedly involved in the domestic surveillance have mostly denied their participation, some flatly, which puts their account in tension with reports from The Washington Post and The Guardian.

The dilemma boils down to this: If the companies are denying their involvement, does that mean the reports are wrong? Does it mean Silicon Valley is lying? Does it mean they're denying very specific parts of the charges based on a technicality? Or does it mean NSA reviewed the data they hold without their knowledge?

Based on e-mails from the White House that defend the idea of the program without openly acknowledging it, the media reports are unlikely to be wrong. The Washington Post has, however, walked back its claim that the tech companies "participate knowingly" in the program. The Post writes: "It is possible that the conflict between the PRISM slides and the company spokesmen is the result of imprecision on the part of the NSA author."

 

There is a fifth possibility: That knowledge of PRISM was limited to only certain employees of each tech firm and that the rest of each company was in the dark.

Twitter was one of the only major tech companies not on the list of participating firms. Reassuring as that is, that's not to say Twitter executives were never approached by NSA or asked to join PRISM. Even if they had been asked—and given the extent of the scandal, why wouldn't they have been?—this roundup of reactions from rank-and-file Twitter employees compiled by CNBC social-media editor Eli Langer implies that that information would indeed be heavily compartmentalized.

 

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