What does the US government's mass Internet surveillance program "PRISM" mean for Swisscows?

2 min
Tags: PRISM Swisscows NSA FBI HTTPS servers protection

In June 2013, The Washington Post and The Guardian revealed a U.S. government mass Internet surveillance program codenamed "PRISM." They reported that the NSA and FBI directly tapped into the servers of nine U.S. service providers, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL, and Skype, and began this surveillance program as early as the mid-2000s, if not earlier.

These revelations sparked an international debate and put the spotlight on government surveillance and individual privacy.

Swisscows has always been very open about protecting people's privacy and civil liberties. So it will come as no surprise to you that we are a staunch opponent of overarching, unaccountable spying programs like PRISM.  In the past, even government surveillance programs that began with good intentions have become instruments of abuse, such as monitoring civil rights and antiwar demonstrators.

Programs like PRISM undermine our privacy, destroy trust in governments, and are a threat to the free Internet.

Swisscows has never shared a single byte of user data with the U.S. government or any other government or agency - whether as part of PRISM or any other program in the U.S. or any program anywhere in the world.

Here is our difference:

Swisscows does not store user data. We make that clear to everyone, including government agencies. We do not record the IP addresses of our users and we do not use tracking cookies, so there is literally no data about you on our servers that we can access. Since we don't even know who our customers are, we can't share anything at all.

Swisscows uses encryption (HTTPS) by default. Encryption prevents snooping. Your searches are encrypted so that others can't "tap" into the Internet connection to spy on what you're looking for. This combination of not storing data and using strong encryption for connections is key to protecting your privacy.

Our company is located in Switzerland. US jurisdiction does not apply to us, at least not directly. Any request or demand by any government (including the U.S.) to release user information will be thoroughly reviewed by our attorneys, and we will not comply unless the law actually applicable to us would indisputably require us to do so. And even in this hypothetical situation, we refer to our first point: we don't even have any user data to give out. We will never partner with voluntary espionage programs like PRISM.

Swisscows cannot be forced to start spying. Given the strong protection of the right to privacy in Europe, European governments cannot simply start forcing service providers like us to implement a nationwide espionage program on their users. And should that ever change, we would fight it to the end.