The Washington Post today is reporting that the National Security Agency, (NSA), and the FBI are tapping directly into the servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, examining audio and video chats, photos, emails, documents and logs to track foreign targets. The information comes from a top-secret document obtained by the Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
The method used by the NSA to extract what it wants is, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
An NSA slide collection explaining the PRISM program, (one such slide is shown above), is available for viewing from the Post. [DIRECT LINK]
AllThingsD reports that Google, Apple, and Facebook have outright denied they are assisting the NSA in mining data.
Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said in a statement today, “We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
Google’s statement was: “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.”
Facebook also chimed in with a denial, saying, “We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”
As of the time of this article, AllThingsD had not yet received statements from Microsoft, Yahoo, PalTalk, AOL and Skype.