As if news of the National Security Agency collecting phone records on millions of Americans wasn’t enough, a new report reveals that the NSA and FBI are directly tapped into central servers at nine U.S. internet firms, in order to provide constant monitoring of audio, video, photos, emails and documents as well as connection logs.
Government slide about the PRISM program shows the data collected by the NSA from internet companies. Image: Courtesy of the Washington Post
The companies whose servers are being mined are reportedly Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. The classified program, dubbed PRISM, has been in operation since 2007 and has been a leading source of intelligence fed to the president in his daily intelligence briefings, according to the Washington Post, which broke the story at the same time as the Guardian today.
The Post notes that PalTalk hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and during the ongoing Syrian civil war.
According to the Post, the system is not a dragnet, per se, since the program doesn’t vacuum everything indiscriminately. But it allows NSA analysts at Ft. Meade to sit at their desks and fish the data stream for key terms.
The companies have been given immunity from lawsuits through a directive signed by the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.
Microsoft was the first to cave into the requests in 2007, though Apple resisted for five years before joining the club last year.