British newspaper The Guardian introduced the world to the U.S. government’s secret program of direct data mining Friday, and the scope of its operation is mind blowing.
Instituted by the National Security Agency (NSA) under President George W. Bush, PRISM literally grants the government direct access to everything that comes into, or leaves, servers at Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, AOL and other U.S.-based internet sites that handle user data.
How? By legally forcing the companies to comply with the NSA’s surveillance demands by allowing the government direct access to whatever data – be it searches or search histories, emails, transfers of photos and video, live chats, metadata, social media profiles and pretty much anything else that can be transmitted over the internet:
The PRISM program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
… Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US.”
The genius of the program is that the companies aren’t allowed to talk about or even acknowledge that they know about PRISM. And, ever since the program was exposed early Friday, denying PRISM’s existence is exactly what they’ve done.
It’s easy to see, now, what will preoccupy the manpower and resources of the NSA’s new data center in Utah.