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Bob Weber IBM Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, and General Counsel

Robert C. Weber
IBM Senior Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, and General Counsel

To Our Clients:

For decades, clients around the world have trusted IBM with their data. We believe we have earned that trust.

In view of the wide range of proposed government regulations around the world related to the handling and treatment of data, clients have asked us questions about their data – how best to secure it, where to locate it, and how we would respond should governments request access.

This is also a matter of interest to our employees, our partners, and our shareholders. Given the global discussion about data security and privacy, we wanted to communicate our view on these issues.

At the outset, we think it is important for IBM to clearly state some simple facts:

  • IBM has not provided client data to the National Security Agency (NSA) or any other government agency under the program known as PRISM.
  • IBM has not provided client data to the NSA or any other government agency under any surveillance program involving the bulk collection of content or metadata.
  • IBM has not provided client data stored outside the United States to the U.S. government under a national security order, such as a FISA order or a National Security Letter.
  • IBM does not put “backdoors” in its products for the NSA or any other government agency, nor does IBM provide software source code or encryption keys to the NSA or any other government agency for the purpose of accessing client data.
  • IBM has and will continue to comply with the local laws, including data privacy laws, in all countries in which it operates.

IBM is fundamentally an enterprise company, meaning our customers are typically other companies and organizations rather than individual consumers. We serve some of the world’s most successful global corporations, helping them achieve their business goals.

Our business model sets us apart from many of the companies that have been associated with the surveillance programs that have been disclosed. Unlike those companies, IBM’s primary business does not involve providing telephone or Internet-based communication services to the general public. Rather, because the vast majority of our customers are other companies and organizations, we deal mainly with business data. Our client relationships are governed by contract, with clear roles and responsibilities assigned and clearly understood by all parties. To the extent our clients provide us access within their infrastructure to the type of individual communications that reportedly have been the target of the disclosed intelligence programs, such information belongs to our clients.

For these reasons, it has long been our (and our clients’) expectation that if a government did have an interest in our clients’ data, the government would approach that client, not IBM.

Our Commitment to Clients and Recommendations to Governments

We understand that clients are concerned about the security and privacy of their data. Therefore, we want to offer the following assurances:

  • In general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise client, we would expect that government to deal directly with that client.
  • If the U.S. government were to serve a national security order on IBM to obtain data from an enterprise client and impose a gag order that prohibits IBM from notifying that client, IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the gag order through judicial action or other means.
  • For enterprise clients’ data stored outside of the United States, IBM believes that any U.S. government effort to obtain such data should go through internationally recognized legal channels, such as requests for assistance under international treaties.
  • If the U.S. government instead were to serve a national security order on IBM to obtain data stored outside the United States from an enterprise client, IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the order through judicial action or other means.
  • IBM will continue to invest in world-class security technologies and services, and we will engage governments around the world on behalf of sensible, market-led policies that enable the free flow of data while promoting strong security. IBM will also continue its decades-long tradition of privacy leadership.

Governments must act to restore trust. IBM believes governments should take the following actions:

  • Governments should reject short-sighted policies, such as data localization requirements, that do little to improve security but distort markets and lend themselves to protectionist tendencies.
  • Governments should not subvert commercial technologies, such as encryption, that are intended to protect business data.
  • The U.S. government should have a robust debate on surveillance reforms, including new transparency provisions that would allow the public to better understand the scope of intelligence programs and the data collected.

Conclusion

Technology often challenges us as a society. This is one instance in which both business and government must respond. Data is the next great natural resource, with the potential to improve lives and transform institutions for the better. However, establishing and maintaining the public’s trust in new technologies is essential.

IBM is committed to being a responsible participant in this discussion and a strong advocate for our clients.

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13 Comments
 
May 15, 2014
8:04 am

“◾Governments should reject short-sighted policies, such as data localization requirements, that do little to improve security but distort markets and lend themselves to protectionist tendencies.”

This is from the perspective of a US organisation providing cloud services predominately from the USA.

I wonder if those same cloud services were provided from Cuba or Brazil or Germany etc – would the US perspective be the same? I doubt it.

Countries have the political right to define that data be stored or managed within their own borders, even if it is transmitted outside. Businesses with their own commercial agenda that try to trivialise this right are being self-serving.


Posted by: Peter
 
April 29, 2014
5:00 am

and what is about IBM – Softlayer and the “patriot act”.
See here (german)
http://www.golem.de/news/cloud-auch-auslandsserver-von-us-firmen-sind-nicht-sicher-1404-106116.html


Posted by: Jörg Baumann
 
April 15, 2014
11:07 am

“IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the order through judicial action or other means.”

How many times did you do it?


Posted by: wst
 
March 24, 2014
6:58 pm

Because of deceptive half-truth statements like this, the sentence “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” includes “the whole truth”. This is nothing but a PR statement similar to what Google et al. are saying.

Under current legislation, there is nothing you can say that anyone can trust. The best you can do is plea guilty and start lobbying for better legislation.

See also https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/03/an_open_letter_.html


Posted by: Tyler Durden
 
March 19, 2014
12:31 pm

Have any of you seen the commercial with the old woman that say’s “I UnFriend You” and the other says “That’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works!!” Well apply that to this whole article. Those “laws” on the books are simply CYA’s, to cover those who get caught, to point at and say “See, it’s legal.” It most likely looks like this:
Anonymous Govt Person: Hello, Mr executive, this is so-and-so calling. We have a bit of a issue here where we believe you can assist us.
Corporate Executive: Hello, Bob, thanks again for inviting me to that gov’t dinner, my wife and I had a great time… what can I help you with…
Anonymous Govt Person(Bob): We have a sensitive situation where we need some data we believe you have…
Corporate Executive: Bob, you know I can’t just provide you our customer’s information…
Anonymous Govt Person(Bob): Aren’t you guys bidding on the xxx govt contract? I believe some of the criteria for selection may have changed on that recently…
Corporate Executive: (Crapping his pant’s over the potential hit to the Qtrly Stock #s) Let me see what I can do…

Think that doesn’t happen? Then you live in a fantasy.


Posted by: Anonymous
 
March 19, 2014
8:22 am

A very good post.
What concerns me is the way that the anonymity of someone acting in a large organization, be it a government, enterprise or on a social network behind an anonymous id, will do things they would not otherwise do. Ethical behavior is often lacking. If someone is found to act against local laws with private data the individual/s should be named along with the organization and be held responsible and be liable for prosecution.
I agree trust is very important, but it will probably be an individual that is responsible for breaking that trust not the technology.


Posted by: John Wiseman
 
March 18, 2014
8:12 am

Wow, sounds just like Gen. Clapper.

No, we didn’t do any of those things via program XYZ – but well, other programs….


Posted by: Anonymous
 
March 18, 2014
6:34 am

Anonymous – that publically disclosed key length compromise in Lotus Notes, the same one that Netscape had to make to offer anything above 40bit encryption outside the US, went away around 2000 when the export controls were relaxed.


Posted by: Rob
 
March 18, 2014
12:34 am

What about the IBM Notes NSA backdoor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Notes#Security


Posted by: Anonymous
 
March 17, 2014
5:58 am

Can you also exclude that IBM is providing software tools for the intelligence services like i.e. InfoSphere?


Posted by: Charles Dragnet
 
March 16, 2014
11:39 pm

Thank you for posting such an important statement. My read of the two points: a) no “backdoors” in IBM products and b) IBM’s position to USG surveillance order. As moving to more cloud services, IBM is facing both personal and enterprise data. So “trust” is the key word.


Posted by: Jason Shao
 
March 15, 2014
1:28 pm

If all other American companies that warehouse personal data were to enact policies such as IBM’s, the fight to stop the NSA would be considerably stronger. If we stand together with one voice, we are much harder to silence. Thank you, IBM, for having the courage to stand up for yourselves.


Posted by: Sonder Twyful
 
March 14, 2014
3:52 pm

1) So how many times has IBM actually supplied data to other parties (such as the US government), where the owner of that data would not be comfortable
with the sharing of it? please just give the value (of type integer).

2) What is your response to the fact that Clapper lied to congress about NSA activities but did not suffer any consequence thereof?

3) Can you tell how many times you have received a gag order?
If so, what is the count?

4) How many times has the US government required access to overseas client data? Just give the number.

To think a debate by the US government will solve this issue, is similar to thinking a burglar going for meditation may decide to return stolen goods. I miss leadership from IBM on this debate. IBM probably thinks if they push this topic too hard they may lose government business…

I don’t want to sound too rude but i think you are out of touch with reality. If I look at numbers of US companies loosing business because of these NSA things you might want to explore taking a much stronger stand.


Posted by: Chris
 
83 Trackbacks
 
September 16, 2014
12:42 am

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March 17, 2014
4:20 am

[…] in the footsteps of Amazon, Google and Microsoft IBM put out a blog post responding to questions over government access to user data. In it, Robert C. Weber IBM Senior Vice […]


Posted by: IBM Responds To Claims About Government Access Requests For Data – CivSource | Everyday News Update
 
March 17, 2014
4:01 am

[…] vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, and general counsel wrote in the letter, which was also posted online, that “in general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program – PCWorld | DailyNewsHeadline.com
 
March 17, 2014
3:59 am

[…] vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, and general counsel wrote in the letter, which was also posted online, that “in general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program – PCWorld | News Supply Daily
 
March 17, 2014
3:55 am

[…] vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, and general counsel wrote in the letter, which was also posted online, that “in general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program | New Computers Store
 
March 17, 2014
3:37 am

[…] vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, and general counsel wrote in the letter, which was also posted online, that “in general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program – PCWorld | Everyday News Update
 
March 17, 2014
3:36 am

[…] clamp boss for authorised and regulatory affairs, and ubiquitous warn wrote in a letter, that was also posted online, that “in general, if a supervision wants entrance to information hold by IBM on seductiveness of […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program
 
March 17, 2014
3:28 am

[…] vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, and general counsel wrote in the letter, which was also posted online, that “in general, if a government wants access to data held by IBM on behalf of an enterprise […]


Posted by: IBM latest tech company to deny links with NSA spy program « Reviews Technology
 
March 16, 2014
10:48 pm

[…] this open letter, Big Blue’s general counsel Robert Weber (also senior veep for legal and regulatory affairs) […]


Posted by: ste williams – IBM: We gave NOTHING to the NSA, stateside or elsewhere
 
March 15, 2014
4:43 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t put […]


Posted by: ACROSS THE FADER – BIZ - IBM: We Haven’t Given the NSA Any Client Data
 
March 15, 2014
1:14 am

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t […]


Posted by: IBM: We Haven’t Given the NSA Any Client Data - Many Pieces One PIcture
 
March 14, 2014
11:40 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t put […]


Posted by: The Mobile App War is Really an Ecosystem War | Tech gadgets help
 
March 14, 2014
11:33 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t […]


Posted by: IBM: We Haven’t Given the NSA Any Client Data | Bratano
 
March 14, 2014
10:31 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t […]


Posted by: IBM: We Haven’t Given the NSA Any Client Data | Breakfast Daily News
 
March 14, 2014
9:59 pm

[…] wisecrack orders imposed by a government, a tip association executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest record services association also says it hasn’t put […]


Posted by: The Mobile App War is Really an Ecosystem War | Travel Gadget Blog
 
March 14, 2014
6:44 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t […]


Posted by: IBM: We Haven’t Given the NSA Any Client DataONews.US - Latest News | ONews.US - Latest News
 
March 14, 2014
4:13 pm

[…] any surveillance-related gag orders imposed by the government, a top company executive wrote in an open letter to clients Friday. The world’s largest technology services company also says it hasn’t […]


Posted by: IBM Says It Hasn’t Given the NSA Any Client Data - TIME
 
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