IBM’s chief counsel, Robert Weber, released a statement Friday reassuring clients about government access to their data and calling it the “next great natural resource.”
He assured clients that IBM has never provided their information to the National Security Agency under PRISM or any other surveillance program involving bulk collection of content or metadata, has never provided data stored outside of the U.S. to the government under a national security order, and does not put “backdoors” in its products for any government agency. “IBM has and will continue to comply with the local laws, including data privacy laws, in all countries in which it operates,” he promises.
Weber goes on to note that IBM’s business model is different than other companies that have been associated with the surveillance program, since IBM deals more directly with businesses (and, thus, business data) than with the general public. As such, there are strict contracts governing those relationships. “In general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf on an enterprise client, we would expect that government to deal directly with that client,” he says. However, if the government comes directly to IBM for data and has a gag order not to disclose to the client, Weber says IBM would fight such an order in court.
He finishes the open letter by recommending that the government reject what he calls “short-sighted policies,” such as data localization requirements, not subvert commercial technologies, and hold a debate on surveillance reforms, since “establishing and maintaining the public’s trust in new technologies is essential.”