The Internet has exploded with activity this morning, after dual articles were released by the Guardian and The Washington Post about a secret government project called PRISM. It has given official agencies like the FBI and NSA unprecedented access to user information from various tech companies, making it the largest surveillance project involving the web to date in the US and UK.
Both countries have apparently been running their own version of PRISM. It monitors emails, chat logs, videos, VOIP, photos, attachments, file transfers, stored data (including cloud storage), video conferences, notifications of all activity including logins, social networking profiles and accounts, and “special requests” that are not otherwise specified.
What makes this so alarming is not just the complete cooperation of companies involved in the project. Nor is it the fact that they can do so without a warrant or true probable cause. The shock is that they are not requesting the information from the companies themselves…they are extracting it directly from the servers. Which gives them a line right into all data collected by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
To put this into perspective, think of everything you have done or said on Google websites in the past couple of days. Emails sent, GTalk conversations held, hangouts conducted, updates on Google+, collaborations done on Drive. All of these were potentially monitored by government agencies.
New products such as the XBox One, which are online all the time and so constantly transferring data, become more sinister as a result. Microsoft was one of the first companies to sign onto this project in 2007, when it was authorized under the Bush Administration.
But obviously they aren’t spying on regular citizens, right? There are filters in place, buzz words that are caught on high tech software that directs the agencies of the United States and Britain onto the right path. The NSA, after all, is only allowed to spy on foreign threats suspected of planning attacks.
According to the report, an agent working for PRISM needs only be “51% sure that the source is a foreign threat”. That is the ineffective filter being applied to the practice, and all data is fair game. It has been for the last six years. Their training presentation for the project tells agents that citizens will be caught in the web, but that it isn’t a problem.
Well, it might not be for them. But somehow I doubt the average American or British citizen will agree.
Source: The Washington Post