Insight into NSA’s PRISM program


In order to monitor private Web data, the NSA uses a program code-named PRISM, which sounds like “1984.” Many people don’t have a proper understanding about this program.

Basically, it is the top-secret surveillance program, code-named PRISM, that reportedly allows the National Security Agency to gain access to customer information held by Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Google, Facebook, and other Internet companies.

It sounds a lot like “1984.” But what does it really mean? To get a better understanding of PRISM and what it means to you as a consumer, we put together this FAQ.

PRISM is a cyber security program, which started in 2007 by the NSA and the FBI. The purpose to start this program was to monitor the Internet data of “foreigners” using major U.S. Web sites. The secret program was first reported by The Washington Post, which received a leaked top-secret document detailing PRISM. Obama administration has now acknowledged it.

It seemingly does not “intentionally” target American citizens or people living within America, but in reality it gives the government unparalleled access to the cyber communications.

This is separate from the data Verizon is giving to the NSA. Actually, the data Verizon gives to the NSA is merely metadata, so although the government can see who you call and how long you talk to them, they are not listening in on your voice mails and phone calls. But again, that’s a separate NSA program.

NSA can monitor every type of data such as “e-mail, chat, videos, photos, stored data, VoIP, file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity, log-ins, etc. On the other hand, online social networking details can also be monitored by this program.
For instance, Google data includes Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.

NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

This program can read any iMessage as well. That is the kind of data the program has access to.

Someone within the NSA may have read one’s e-mails as well as Google’s algorithms crawl the people’s e-mail all the time to target ads at them.

Different companies are involved in this NSA program such as Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook, Google, Apple, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype. Dropbox is allegedly “coming soon.” However, 98 percent of PRISM production is based on just Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft.

All nine of them have explicitly denied that the government has “direct access” to their servers. The Post offers one possible explanation for the inconsistency:

It is possible that the conflict between the PRISM slides and the company spokesmen is the result of imprecision on the part of the NSA author. In another classified report obtained by the Post, the arrangement is described as allowing “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” rather than directly to company servers.

Upon being asked that why isn’t Twitter a part of PRISM? They replied, that’s a very good question that no one seems to be able to answer right now.
Recently, Twitter earned higher marks for protecting your privacy than some of the PRISM-implicated companies did. At least some of Twitter’s employees seemed genuinely shocked by the news.

President Barack Obama addressed PRISM on Friday and essentially said, “Don’t worry. You can trust us.”

According to the sources, this program is legal under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 2008 and the Protect America Act of 2007. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement Thursday night saying that “Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.” FISA was renewed last year by Congress.

According to the Post, “Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.” When the story broke, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) released a letter they cowrote to the Justice Department expressing their concerns relating to the program.

This program works with the supervision of an attorney general who issues a secret order to a tech company to hand over access to its servers to the FBI. The FBI then hands it over to the NSA.

According to last survey, the United States was the second most free country on Earth in terms of Internet freedoms. That position is about to change. One cannot avoid this program.

A congressional hearing and an investigation into who leaked it. “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans,” Clapper said in his statement.

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