Earlier today, my GammaSquad cousin Dan Seitz brought us the news that the NSA had struck a deal with Verizon that would give the agency unlimited access to millions of phone records, and people were naturally very upset. Well if you didn’t get all of your outrage and fist-shaking out of your system when that news broke, then get ready to let it rip, because some of the Internet’s biggest companies and sites are allegedly sharing all of our information with the National Security Agency.
The Guardian reported today that it had uncovered a top secret 41-page PowerPoint Presentation for a program known as PRISM that allows the NSA “direct access” to the systems and servers for Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and other American Internet giants. Of course, while the PowerPoint states that the operation is in conjunction with executives from each of the organizations involved, the Guardian reported that none of the people contacted with this information had a clue what was going on.
For instance, Google released this statement:
“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 ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
Adding, “Side door? Sure. Cracked window with a faulty lock that you just have to jiggle a little? Absolutely.” I’m kidding. OR AM I??? (I am, please don’t arrest me.)
Additionally, an Apple rep told the Guardian that he’d never heard of PRISM, but the documents suggest otherwise. According to the details, PRISM began in 2007 with Microsoft as the first company, Yahoo in 2008, Google and Facebook in 2009, YouTube in 2010, Skype and AOL in 2011 and Apple last year. So what exactly is the NSA pulling from our various accounts? Well, it depends on the providers, but it includes email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing, and other “Online Social Networking Details”.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein already told reporters earlier today that the collection of phone records has actually prevented terrorist attacks inside the U.S. but she failed to provide an actual number and any specific details about how they did that. Additionally, Senator Lindsey Graham claimed that he is a Verizon customer and has no problem with the snooping, because if he’s committing some sort of terrorist act, he should be dealt with accordingly. Obviously, not all politicians are pleased with these exposures of invasions of privacy in the name so-called national security, but I’m sure they’ll all soon have their hands full dealing with the real priority – using this for political leverage in the next election season.
Meanwhile, Microsoft might want to reconsider its latest ad campaign for Internet Explorer until this is all cleared up.