CEO Bill McDermott says reports about SAP’s role in the NSA’s controversial mass surveillance projects are “misleading” but adds firm is “honoured” that it contributes to national safety.

The vendor was facing questions over ethics after it was revealed that it provides infrastructure for the US intelligence agencies to ‘spy’ on citizens internationally, and process data for its drone attacks.

It was listed as one of the contractors for the NSA, alongside arms company Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop.

Further, a report from German news site Zeit Online revealed that the CIA and NSA use SAP’s in-memory database Hana as it is one of the fastest on the market.

It found that through the vendor’s many acquisitions, it had ownership of a large percentage of surveillance analysis technology, including Inxight, Sybase and partnerships with Palantir.

McDermott said: “SAP’s solutions are standard software and our customers decide how they want to use it.”

SAP bought Inxight in 2007, (a database that rapidly screens data). A former software developer for intelligence, Jo Lernout, who said that many of his peers have previously worked for Inxight and now for the German vendor said: “Inxight solves the problem of the American surveillance programs to make the enormous amounts of data searchable and to obtain relevant results.”

SAP then purchased US database vendor Sybase, whose largest customer is the NSA, according to the newspaper, in 2010.

German foreign intelligence department BND is looking into buying Hana, it was alleged.

McDermott retaliated: “Claims that this setup allows access to customer data are false.

“In addition, there are no so-called “backdoors” built into SAP software and customer data cannot be retrieved externally. No company is more committed to data privacy and security than SAP.

“When we talk about business challenges, few are as significant as public service and public safety. It is unquestionably within our interest to offer software to public agencies as they look to improve outcomes through innovation.

“Technology is one of the means to ensure our safety and to protect people’s lives. If our technology contributes to upholding a safe, free and open society, we are honoured by this and committed to doing so with the utmost integrity.”