The Washington Post has reported that the NSA and FBI have organized a secret program, dubbed PRISM, that could be mining data from the customers of major tech organizations. The list of purported companies and services involved includes Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL, YouTube, Skype, PalTalk, and Yahoo.
PRISM supposedly works by monitoring certain search terms that can identify, with at least 51% accuracy, that the person in question is foreign. Once PRISM confirms that 51% likelihood, it can move forward collecting information.
The kind and amount of data the program can allegedly collect is startlingly vast. According to the report, it can generally use the complying companies’ data to gain access to a person’s email, video and voice chat logs, videos, photos, file transfers, “Online Social Networking details” and more. The Post‘s source, who is said to be a “career intelligence officer,” said that the NSA and FBI “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type” by using the program.
Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo have thus far denied the claims, stating that they have never heard of PRISM and that they take customer’s privacy seriously. However, documents uncovered by the Post imply that the Government guarded the involvement of said companies due to the fact that the program relied heavily on cooperation from the businesses. It also outlines how the government allegedly promised the organizations full discretion as well as immunity from lawsuits.
It has been reported that Apple managed to avoid involvement in PRISM for nearly five years after Microsoft was the first to hop on board in 2007. As of yet, the only major player seemingly missing from the list is Twitter.
In December of 2012, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) reportedly had information regarding what they termed a “back-door search loophole” that could mean innocent citizens could potentially become part of a search for other individuals. Basically, if one individual is under scrutiny, it is possible that contacts with two degrees of separation could also have information mined in a search.
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper also released a statement that the allegations are inaccurate. He goes on to state that the intent is not to monitor or target U.S. citizens, but as TechCrunch points out, it implies that PRISM could do so unintentionally.
Source: The Washington Post