I'm beginning to really dislike what my future is going to look like.Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data
Five-year-old program provides government with direct access to email, messages, browser history, more
By Dan Seifert on June 6, 2013 06:04 pm Email @dcseifert
The US National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been harvesting data such as audio, video, photographs, emails, and documents from the internal servers of nine major technology companies, according to a leaked 41-slide security presentation obtained by The Washington Post and The Guardian. According to The Washington Post, the program's slides were provided by a "career intelligence officer" that had "firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities," and wished to expose the programs "gross intrusion on privacy."
The program, codenamed PRISM, is considered highly classified and has never been made public before. The list of companies involved are the who's who of Silicon Valley: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Dropbox, though not yet an official part of the program, is said to be joining it soon. These companies have all willingly participated in the program, says the Post.
According to the leaked presentation, the program has been in action since 2007, and is considered the biggest contributor to the daily briefings given to the President, providing data in 1,477 articles last year alone. Allegedly, nearly one in seven intelligence reports from the NSA contains data from the PRISM program. The NSA has the ability to pull any sort of data it likes from these companies, but it claims that it does not try to collect it all. The PRISM program goes above and beyond the existing laws that state companies must comply with government requests for data, as it gives the NSA direct access to each company's servers — essentially letting the NSA do as it pleases. The program was initiated to overcome what the NSA saw as constraints within the existing FISA warrant program that did not allow the agency to make us of the "home-field advantage" provided by having most of the internet's biggest companies on US soil.
Microsoft was the first company to bow to the government's wishes and join the PRISM program in 2007, while Apple held out for five years before agreeing. Though Google and Facebook are a part of PRISM, Twitter has not yet joined. Apparently, the only members of Congress that knew about PRISM's existence were bound by oath not to speak of it publicly. In a statement provided to both The Washington Post and The Guardian, Google denied that the government had any sort of backdoor access to its systems:
"Google 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 'backdoor' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'backdoor' for the government to access private user data."
The training documents for the program reveal that the NSA collects a large amount of data on the American public through the PRISM program. For example, if a specific target is investigated using PRISM, that target's complete inbox and outbox is swept, in addition to anyone that is connected to it. This high-level of access was initially given to the NSA by President Bush and was later renewed in 2012 by President Obama.
This report follows the news from earlier this week of the NSA's involvement in collecting call data and records from Verizon in another massive surveillance partnership.