IBM claims it hasn’t provided client data to the National Security Agency (NSA) or other government surveillance bodies.
In a posting on the Building a Smarter Planet blog, IBM senior vice president Robert C. Weber suggested that the company’s focus on enterprise clients lessens its appeal as a snooping target to the NSA and other agencies. “IBM’s primary business does not involve providing telephone or Internet-based communication services to the general public,” he wrote. “Rather, because the vast majority of our customers are other companies and organizations, we deal mainly with business data” instead of the individual communications “that reportedly have been the target of the disclosed intelligence programs.”
IBM claims it isn’t a member of the NSA’s controversial PRISM program, and denies that it provided “bulk” client data (including communications metadata) to U.S. surveillance agencies. Weber also said the company does not install backdoors in its software products, and will fight government requests for client data.
Indeed, IBM wasn’t among the companies listed in leaked documents describing the PRISM program—those included Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. (Most of those firms subsequently denied any involvement in the program.) But Weber’s posting doesn’t mention how many times the federal government has approached IBM with requests for specific user data; nor does Big Blue issue a transparency report detailing such requests.
As IBM reorients itself as a cloud-services provider, client trust in its products is essential: if people no longer believe their data is safe in an IBM datacenter, they may choose to take their business elsewhere. In light of that, it’s important for IBM (and all cloud-based companies) to take an aggressive stance on government surveillance. The big question is whether Big Blue will emulate many of those other firms and introduce a public transparency report that details government data requests.
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