Today the story broke about PRISM, a supposedly top-secret program at the US National Security Agency (NSA) that has been in operation since 2007.
According to The Washington Post, current intelligence reporting increasingly relies on PRISM as its main source of raw data and is used in almost 1 out of every 7 intelligence reports these days.
Here’s the basic breakdown of what’s happening so far in the story, who’s involved, what’s being looked at, and more.
- The NSA and the FBI
- Microsoft (2007), Yahoo (2008), Google (2009), Facebook (2009), PalTalk (2009), YouTube (2010), Skype (2011), AOL (2011), Apple (2012)
What’s Being Shared?
While specifics of what has actually been shared aren’t in the slideshow, the following types of files are called out:
- Connection Logs
- Live Chats
How Long Has This Been In Operation?
According to the slideshow document, at least since 2007, when Microsoft joined PRISM.
Has My Information Been Compromised?
It’s unclear what specific information has been shared, and even less clear who’s information has been shared. The PRISM document claims that the intelligence data is being gathered to analyze people’s contacts and movements over time, but it doesn’t say how such data is analyzed, or how individuals are chosen to be analyzed.
How Have The Companies Responded
Apple, Facebook, and Google have each responded with flat-out denials.
“We have never heard of PRISM,” said Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling in a statement. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
In a statement to The Guardian, Google said that it “cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
According to AllThingsD, Facebook said, “We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”
Where Can I See This Presentation?
The slide presentation is available viewable in an annotated version over at The Washington Post.
What Does The Government Have To Say?
According to TechCrunch, the director of US National Intelligence James R. Clapper said today that the clause in question, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is only for “foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States,” and “cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.”
He continues to say that such data gathering is used to protect our nation from a variety of threats, is entirely legal, and disclosure of such information is reprehensible and could risk the safety of Americans. He does not address anything about the companies who have issued statements.
This story is developing; please check back for updates as they happen.