What is PRISM? How the US Government is Spying on You

If you haven’t heard of PRISM yet, this is your introduction, and you’re going to be hearing about them a lot more. PRISM is a US government program, a collaboration between the NSA, FBI, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Through these tech companies, the government has been accessing your personal information.

The official purpose of PRISM is to watch for foreign communications that pass through US servers that may warn the government of potential threats. It works like this: every day, under order of the attorney general, the tech companies mentioned hand over access to their servers – your personal information intact – to the FBI. The FBI then relays it to the NSA.

Now, the NSA isn’t allowed to simply comb through the data of anyone they want. They must be “51 percent” confident that the person in question is “foreign.” Fifty-one percent. If they have that level of confidence, and I don’t know who assigns a number value to a confidence level, then they can look at the information all they please. According to information published by the Washington Post, domestic citizens get tagged all the time.

Among the information collected by PRISM are audio and video chats, pictures, emails, documents, and more. If one end of a call is a conventional telephone, that call is allowed to be monitored, because I guess conventional telephones are suspicious? File transfers can be monitored when Skype users connect by computer. Google gives PRISM access to Gmail, chat, Google Drive, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.

The above applies to most if not all of the tech companies and services I mentioned above.

If it makes you feel any better, and it shouldn’t, the companies involved don’t really have a choice. If they don’t comply that leaves them open to a government lawsuit. This hasn’t stopped Twitter from refusing them. This isn’t the first time that Twitter has put their foot down and said no to something potentially harmful.

The salt in the wound is that this is all perfectly legal. The Protect America Act of 2007 made it legal for targets to be monitored if they were believed to be foreign, which is where the “51%” idea comes in. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act protects companies from harm for handing over information to the government.

PRISM is completely legal and here to stay.


via Gizmodo

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