PRISM: NSA data mining 9 leading Internet firms

Washington Post and Guardian revealed huge NSA data mining program which gets information directly from servers of nine leading US internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

Washington Post reported on June 6, 2013 that

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets. ... The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now.

What is new is that US government collecting data from internet service provides: Microsoft (Hotmail), Yahoo, Google & Gmail, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. Microsoft was the first company to join the PRISM (in Sep 2007), and Apple the most recent, in October 2012.

The data collected from online providers includes e-mail, chats, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing and log-ins.

Prism NSA Data Mining program

The program relies on US being the world's telecommunication backbone. Since the target's phone call or chat will the cheapestpath, not the physically most direct path, it could easily be flowing through the US.

US World Telecommunication Backbone

This is related to another revelation that NSA is getting phone records from Verizon. Interesting that Verizon is handing over only meta-data - call logs, not the content of the conversations. The call logs are sufficient for social network analysis.

Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo said

"My sense is they are looking for network patterns, ... who is connected to whom and whether they can put any timelines together. They are also probably trying to identify locations where people are calling from."

Cindy Cohn, a legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, critized the program saying

"It's incredibly invasive ... This is a consequence of the fact that we have so many third parties that have accumulated significant information about our everyday lives."

New York Times reportsthat US Govt officials said that the program is authorized under a foreign intelligence law that was recently renewed by Congress, and maintained that it minimizes the collection and retention of information "incidentally acquired" about Americans and permanent residents.

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