Google and Yahoo are said to be outraged after finding out about allegations that the National Security Agency has secretly been spying on their Internet data, including American emails, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide. We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems," said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer in a statement to The Washington Post, on Wednesday.
"We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform," he added.
Similarly, Yahoo spokeswoman Sarah Meron said that the internet company has "strict controls" to protect the security of its data centers, and that it has not granted access to the NSA or any other government agency.
The NSA has responded to the claims, saying that it uses "multiple authorities" to accomplish its mission of defending the nation.
"The Washington Post's assertion that we use Executive Order 12333 collection to get around the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and FAA 702 is not true," the agency wrote.
"The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons' data from this type of collection is also not true. NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons - minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination."
The U.S. government came under heavy international scrutiny last week when German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Barack Obama over the phone to demand an explanation for why the NSA has apparently been monitoring her phone. This followed allegations that the NSA has been recording tens of millions of phone conversations throughout France and Spain, something which European leaders have deemed as unacceptable.
"If the Americans intercepted cell phones in Germany, they broke German law on German soil," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich has said. "The confidence in our ally, (the) USA, is shaken."
Obama has denied that he knew such monitoring was taking place, and the NSA is facing a review of its operations after a growing split with the White House administration.
"It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. "That is a big problem."