Google, Facebook in battle to salvage reputations after Prism scandal

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple have been floundering for a response.

Google. Apple. Facebook. Microsoft: they are the brands that want the world to trust them with personal information, emails, photos, documents – yet they are now facing a battle to maintain that trust after disclosures that the US government was given access to their customers' data online via the Prism programme operated by the the National Security Agency (NSA).

Read more here:

Google brushes off back-door security allegations

US spy chief defends 'legal' surveillance

Canada denies access to Prism but admits to monitoring phone traffic

The companies involved – Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple – vigorously deny giving the Obama administration backdoor access to users' internet information, but the potential damage to their brand reputation has left the companies floundering for a way to respond.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, believes there could be serious consequences for the collective reputations of all internet companies who have meticulously built their trade on trust.

He cites Amazon – not one of the companies involved in Prism – as a case in point when the company took the side of consumers after publishers protested about bad reviews.

"It may have dissuaded someone to buy a book, but it instilled trust in Amazon which was far more important to it long-term," said Mayer-Schonberger.

"If you violate that trust, it is difficult to re-establish.

Even if it turned out to be a hoax, trust has been destroyed because everyone is talking about it." He added: "These companies depend on their users being sufficiently trusting to give them personal data.

Undermining freedom
Many of us are perfectly fine for these companies to use this information for their own commercial benefit, to place more relevant adverts on the right hand side, but we do not want it passed on to the government or to tax authorities for instance."

Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Centre for Democracy and Technology in New York said that for Google – a company which has Don't be Evil as an informal company slogan and has pioneered online openess, "more transparency would be helpful".

He said: "An important step would be for these companies to exert even more pressure; pressure on the intelligence authorities to disclose more information about intelligence related surveillance that they are compelled to conduct."

In his statement following the Prism revelations, Google chief executive Larry Page indicated this was the tack his company would be taking to protect its brand reputation.

"The level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish," he said.

Civil liberty activists have also been alarmed.

In the UK, the US surveillance, even of high level data, has raised questions about breaches of domestic data protection laws. –  © Guardian News and Media 2013

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

A to Z guide on HIV: The top 10 things...

The HIV pandemic isn’t going anywhere until a cure is found. In the meantime, HIV clinicians say South Africa should protect its victories

PODCAST: How South Africa fits into the global economy, pt...

Michael Power chats to the M&G editor-in-chief and business journalists about South Africa and its place in the global economy

Zambian president’s first 100 days

Hakainde Hichilema came to power on a wave of optimism. Has he delivered?

WATCH: How safe are vaccinated people from the Omicron?

Leading vaccinologist, Professor Shabir Madhi explains how South Africa is lagging behind in vaccinations and how this could affect the newest variant
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×