U.S. government confirms PRISM surveillance program, tech companies deny involvement

By on June 7, 2013, 12:25 AM

As public concern over government surveillance in the U.S. continues to grow following news that the NSA is collecting metadata from Verizon calls on a daily basis, information concerning other potentially affected companies has surfaced. The Washington Post is reporting that the FBI and the NSA are mining data from the servers of nine of the largest tech companies in the United States.

The Guardian and The Washington Post have published presentation slides detailing a surveillance program entitled PRISM (a reference to a prism that refracts light, as in light that carries data through fiber-optic cables). The slides contain direct references to major tech companies including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, and AOL. Additionally,  Dropbox is expected to join the program soon, according to The Washington Post.

PRISM allegedly allows direct governmental access to central corporate servers containing customer information and communications, but since the release of the slides, many companies have posted statements categorically denying any knowledge or involvement with PRISM.

Microsoft wrote in a statement:

We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.

Google states that they care “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," reports The Next Web.

Yahoo responded similarly:

Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.

In direct contrast, the U.S. government has confirmed the existence of PRISM, and officials have acknowledged a seven-year initiative to collect phone records, reports the New York Times. Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said that the surveillance “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

It’s not yet clear amid these rapid revelations which statements are accurate, but it’s worth noting that many national security orders come paired with gag orders which prohibit the recipient from disclosing any information concerning the subject. It’s possible that the companies involved haven’t been briefed on the rapidly changing situation, and are adhering to a mandate to shield themselves from legal repercussions and from negative public opinion before more information is available.

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Upper image credit: USA Today




User Comments: 31

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1 person liked this | Guest said:

I see why this is necessary, as clearly it stopped Boston and all these psychotic mass murderers with AR-15s.

Guest said:

You gotta be kidding me. Sheeple like you is why slavery exists in the first place. Because of your willingness to bend over and take it. The government has NO right to do this. The NSA is as anti-american as a terrorist themselves.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The NSA are terrorist! What do you think they are doing with these programs? It's called control by terror.

misor misor said:

To beat the u.s.a.'s enemies, the u.s. government becomes the enemy?

if it thinks/talks/walks/acts like the enemy, it must be the enemy.

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Wikipedia)

------------

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. Search and seizure (including arrest) should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it.

FLWrd said:

You gotta be kidding me. Sheeple like you is why slavery exists in the first place. Because of your willingness to bend over and take it. The government has NO right to do this. The NSA is as anti-american as a terrorist themselves.

I think you've misread it. The post above you is quite ironic.

ThanosPAS ThanosPAS said:

You gotta be kidding me. Sheeple like you is why slavery exists in the first place. Because of your willingness to bend over and take it. The government has NO right to do this. The NSA is as anti-american as a terrorist themselves.

Read it again, the comment is ironic. Think before you trash.

Renrew Renrew said:

Phone conversations have been monitored since the 60's and with the advent of the internet, all manner of communications are being monitored by our intelligence agencies. It should come as no surprise that Corporations are routinely forced to supply records to these agencies.

The NSA was founded in 1956 and now employs around 40,000 people. Until recently even their very existence was denied.

We now have a glut of security agencies FBI, CIA,NSA,DHS and some yet to be named, all tripping over each other to justify their existence and producing very little except higher budgets every year.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Big Brother is Watching You

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Big Brother is Watching You

George Orwell's 1984 was one of my favorite books. Never thought I would feel like Winston as much as I do.

You gotta be kidding me. Sheeple like you is why slavery exists in the first place. Because of your willingness to bend over and take it. The government has NO right to do this. The NSA is as anti-american as a terrorist themselves.

This is true. This country is incredibly soft/pussified.

I also find it funny that Yahoo tries to deny it. I put about as much credibilty into that statement as a FBI announcement.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

We now have a glut of security agencies FBI, CIA,NSA,DHS and some yet to be named, all tripping over each other to justify their existence and producing very little except higher budgets every year.
And guess who is paying for it all, with little choice in the matter. Organizations such as you mentioned are nothing more than leaches, that can not be single handedly removed.

Go ahead and call me a traitor for expressing my opinion, the way I see it you can't be a traitor to a country that does things in secrecy. How could anyone stand behind a country that doesn't ask its people before taking action. We should be voting on the laws going into effect, not the people making them. I've come to the conclusion it really doesn't matter who is in office, it the laws that are important.

In a civilization where everyone can talk to anyone world wide, we really have no need in State Representatives. Think back on the time State Representatives were put in office and why they were put there. The whole concept is irrelevant in todays world. We the people now have the capabilities to represent ourselves.

avoidz avoidz said:

I feel like I'm being watched and recorded and profiled every time I interact with modern technology nowadays. It's not a pleasant feeling.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Big Brother is Watching You

George Orwell's 1984 was one of my favorite books. Never thought I would feel like Winston as much as I do.

You gotta be kidding me. Sheeple like you is why slavery exists in the first place. Because of your willingness to bend over and take it. The government has NO right to do this. The NSA is as anti-american as a terrorist themselves.

This is true. This country is incredibly soft/pussified.

I also find it funny that Yahoo tries to deny it. I put about as much credibilty into that statement as a FBI announcement.

Do you really feel like Winston? Are you scared for your life when you walk outside in the morning because someone might THINK you aren't completely loyal to the govt and they might report you to the thought police? Then the Thought Police would take you away just like many others and you'd be tortured until you loved Big Brother?

Clearly you're not too worried about it because you're here on this webpage giving your opinion. Everyone here freaking out about being controlled sounds ridiculous simply because they're allowed to be here and freak out. And because these people who freak about can't see anything besides in black and white they'll think I'm automatically completely in favor of govt surveillance. (which I'm not)

Ask someone in China what shows up in google if they search for Tiananmen Square. You won't see anything from 1989 or protests. Ask an elderly African American about what would happen if his family would (dare) call the police in the south in the 1940s because a group of whites beat up a family member. And we here think we're being oppressed?

Guest said:

Gee change your name to righteous_mike and give it a break....

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And because these people who freak about can't see anything besides in black and white they'll think I'm automatically completely in favor of govt surveillance. (which I'm not)

And we here think we're being oppressed?

Right! Since we now live in a gray area of oppression, let us all sit down and forget about making life less oppressed or at the very least stop talking about the idea.

Guest said:

It's nothing like 1984... anyone remember Enemy of the State, appears we're targeted while the real perpetrators walk around scot-free ...

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

Do you really feel like Winston?

A little.

Clearly you're not too worried about it because you're here on this webpage giving your opinion.

I could care less about the Government. This country and its controlling party's are as corrupt and full of crap as any in History. History does repeat itself. Again, I don't care about it but I am aware...or as they say, awake.

Gee change your name to righteous_mike and give it a break....

Agreed.

Easy Mike, who cares about my measly useless opinion anyways. Nooobody.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Right! Since we now live in a gray area of oppression, let us all sit down and forget about making life less oppressed or at the very least stop talking about the idea.

Yes. I agree with you. That's the whole point I've been trying to make. It is a grey area, but who's going to believe what the govt is doing is actually wrong if we exaggerate it into oblivion? We talking like we're worried about the govt busting down our doors at night because we disagree with the administration. But that's not going to happen, and talking about it only discredits whoever says that. Everything's always put in the context of 1984 because it's the extreme benchmark, but it's not even real... 1984 is a fictional story. We should at least be using a real example of oppression like Iraq during Saddam's regime or something. Do you need any more proof that we're off base than the use of a fictional story as our comparison point?

But think about where this surveillance could go next.... The govt's role in healthcare is getting bigger and bigger... Michael Bloomberg already has outlawed large sodas. Who's to say next our shopping records aren't going to be aggregated into some kind of report to see what parts of what cities are eating the worst? What comes after that... maybe a tax on calories... maybe a tax on larger clothes?

What if they're using phone records to try to figure out your political affiliation (like who calls what radio show) and then they sic the IRS on you?

You don't boil a frog by dropping it into boiling water... you do it by slowly turning up the heat. If the heat is getting turned up on us we can't run around screaming that we're on fire; everyone will just think we're crazy and nothing will change.

Guest said:

Helen Keller

"Security is an illusion. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

-

Franklin D. Roosevelt

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way."

"It is not a sign of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society" -- J. Krishnamurti

Life is cyclical my friends, open your eyes.

Guest said:

"in accordance with the law"

well, so we'll be fu***d big time when they pass the law that allows everything (oh wait is it passed already?)

and on the other hand why would you want to believe those statements, will any corporation get into trouble for not understanding the question?

"we review all such requests carefully" accepted, enter, next...

Guest said:

You don't have to feel that, live it :)

Guest said:

Quote: "We talking like we're worried about the govt busting down our doors at night because we disagree with the administration."

let's keep quite when things like those happen and soon will turn reality

Renrew Renrew said:

If you think you can't disappear without due process read this carefully. It also explains how data mining is perfectly legal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_act

Renrew Renrew said:

While the Tech companies deny involvement, they are only following the gag (read secrecy) order that comes with these subpoenas for data.

MonsterZero MonsterZero said:

They are basically accusing ever american citizen of being a terrorist. There is no justification in this, if the data was really 'useful' in countering attacks, then they should have known about the Boston attacks a few years prior.

This is what happens when you let fear run your government.

Guest said:

You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day.

Theme of Person of Interest is not too far fetched after all.

cuerdc said:

Does it matter what we do even if they stop it they will fond another way and they probably just controlling the news diverting attention anyways or a hidden agenda for the long run

3DCGMODELER 3DCGMODELER said:

I see why this is necessary, as clearly it stopped Boston and all these psychotic mass murderers with AR-15s.

Its Not the gun... It's the Mentally unstable person pulling the trigger.. they can use any gun to shoot.. its the human pulling the trigger not the gun, the gun can not pull it's own trigger... Human control not gun control...

Ya Think Daaaaa..

MannerMauler said:

It's nothing like 1984... anyone remember Enemy of the State, appears we're targeted while the real perpetrators walk around scot-free ...

well, there could be perpetrators who could live right next to you or me who say get hold of the password to my or your email or internet password and be using my or your ip or using a program to make a fake ip which could be the same as my or your email (my bro got into hacking and showed me how it works) so we could be framed without the perpetrators not evening knowing

Guest said:

Some of the comments here are ridiculous. Personally, I see no problem with that. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Some of the comments here are ridiculous. Personally, I see no problem with that.
Seriously!!

I can't believe you don't have a problem with, redundant organizations wasting our tax dollars on BS.

Guest said:

Some of the comments here are ridiculous. Personally, I see no problem with that. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.

Of course we have something to hide and it's called privacy. Try googling it if you don't know what it means.

Noun

  1. The state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.
  2. The state of being free from public attention.
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