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IBM: We gave NOTHING to the NSA, stateside or elsewhere

Our back door is closed but customers' front doors are open, says Big Blue

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IBM has become the latest of the tech giants to deny handing over customer data to the NSA's PRISM program.

In this open letter, Big Blue's general counsel Robert Weber (also senior veep for legal and regulatory affairs) gives the “no way” message to the world at large.

Specifically, Weber writes that IBM did not provide “client data” to “the NSA or any other government agency under the program known as PRISM”, nor under any bulk metadata collection program; has not provided data stored outside the US under FISA orders or national security letters; doesn't put backdoors in its systems; and doesn't provide encryption keys to “the NSA or any other government agency” to give them access to client data.

Noting IBM's status as an enterprise vendor, Weber says if the NSA wants information about its customers in the USA, the spooks should approach its clients directly, and if it wants to know something about an IBM customer in another country, it should go through “internationally recognised legal channels”.

While its theme might have been “trust us”, IBM couldn't help slipping in a variation on the matter of data sovereignty. Since IBM hasn't ever handed over data, Weber argues, there's no need to try and protect data from an American dragnet by holding it somewhere else.

“Governments should reject short-sighted policies, such as data localization requirements, that do little to improve security but distort markets and lend themselves to protectionist tendencies,” he writes.

This, he says, is part of the need for governments to restore trust. He also calls for the US government to debate reforms to surveillance, which to El Reg strikes a discord: if Uncle Sam never actually got the data Edward Snowden asserts it has accessed (at least from IBM), where's the need for reform? ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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