Rovio Entertainment said today that it does not share any data from users of its apps with government spy agencies such as the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and U.K.'s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The Finnish company was responding to allegations in a secret British report from 2012 — leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and made public by ProPublica and The New York Times yesterday — that the NSA and GCHQ collected user data from mobile ad companies, and particularly, that some of that data may have come from a "leaky" Angry Birds app. Angry Birds has been downloaded more than 1 billion times.
Rovio "does not share data, collaborate or collude with any government spy agencies such as NSA or GCHQ anywhere in the world," the company said today, characterizing the report as "speculation." Rovio also noted that if agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ were targeting advertising networks such as the one used in Angry Birds, then "it would appear that no internet-enabled device that visits ad-enabled web sites or uses ad-enabled applications is immune to such surveillance."
The company did not address the report's allegations that the Angry Birds app may have failed to protect user data. Rovio did say that it never provided its users' data voluntarily.
"We do not collaborate, collude or share data with spy agencies anywhere in the world"
"As the alleged surveillance might be happening through third-party advertising networks, the most important conversation to be had is how to ensure user privacy is protected while preventing the negative impact on the whole advertising industry and the countless mobile apps that rely on ad networks," said Rovio CEO Mikael Hed. "In order to protect our end users, we will, like all other companies using third-party advertising networks, have to reevaluate working with these networks if they are being used for spying purposes."
Much of the criticism of the governmental organizations conducting the kind of surveillance detailed in Snowden's leaked documents has centered around gag orders. When tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo received requests for user data in the form of national security letters from the FBI, they were forbidden from disclosing that fact. The U.S. Justice Department took steps to change that policy yesterday with a new order that allows companies to publicly reveal more information about such requests from the federal government.