Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) are the most prominent members of an elite group of companies – the ones that probably now are among the least-trusted in America thanks to their involvement with the National Security Agency’s PRISM online surveillance program, which was exposed by notorious leaker and international fugitive Edward Snowden. For those not entirely in the now, part of the PRISM program involved nine tech companies providing information to the NSA about users and subscribers, but thee was to be a gag order on revealing details about the accounts accessed what information was provided and how many accounts were being monitored.
Well, a group of students in Europe decided they are not fans of the gag orders, and they think their information should have been protected – or at least, they should have been informed that their information was being accessed. At least, that seems to be the gist of a series of complaints by the group, citing violations of Europe data-protection and privacy laws when Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), along with five other companies, gave up some of their account information to the NSA.
Max Schrems, who heads a student group called Europe vs. Facebook – which is advocating for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to comply with EU data-protection laws in regards to privacy – said in regards to these complaints that the goal is “to see if it is legal for a European Union company to forward data to the National Security Agency in bulk … (and) to get more information, because they will have to disclose stuff in a preceding here. The U.S. gag orders are not valid here. Both might be another puzzle piece for the good of mankind.”
These complaints, filed with data-protection entities in Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg, will seek to use European data laws to try to get companies like Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and the rest to reveal the types of information they gave up about non-U.S. citizens in the PRISM dragnet, and perhaps know the scope of the data mining- how many accounts were there, and would specific names or identifying information be revealed?
What could be the ramifications of these complaints against Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the rest?