SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. want people the world
over to trust them with the most intimate details of their lives.
Now both Silicon Valley companies are fighting to preserve that trust in the wake of damaging revelations that they turned over users' data to the National Security Agency's secret Internet surveillance program.
Facebook and Google each vigorously deny they gave the U.S. government special access to their servers or complied with broad requests for users' information and communications. And they have moved swiftly to quell criticism overseas, exerting public pressure on the Obama administration to shed light on the number and scope of national security requests they get under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
But many say the revelations have already undermined the companies' sweeping international ambitions in the very same countries where they are looking to put down deeper roots.
"The implications are not just about what happens to the privacy of Americans and to the future of American political due process," said David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect." "There are potentially vast negative global consequences."
Rebecca MacKinnon, senior research fellow with the New America Foundation, says there is a growing sense of outrage around the world. U.S. technology firms tied to the NSA surveillance program are especially vulnerable in places where citizens live under the oppression of pervasive surveillance and distrust of government runs deep, she said.
The NSA program, dubbed PRISM, targets foreigners whose online activity is routed through the United States.
"There has been a lot of discussion about Americans' privacy rights. But what about the privacy rights of everyone else?" said MacKinnon, who examines the effects of digital technologies on human rights.
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