Need To Know: Prism

July 22, 2013 • Need To Know

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Prism is a secret tool used by the NSA to collect data on both US citizens and foreign subjects. Brought into the public eye by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Prism has been a source of much controversy.

 

  • Prism has been used to collect data from huge companies including Microsoft for Hotmail, Outlook and Skype, as well as Google, Facebook and more.

 

  • Whilst the NSA has claimed it can only gain access by first obtaining approval from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the leaks detail how the in fact has direct access to companies’ servers.

 

  • Although initially companies vehemently rejected allegations of participating in Prism, it later transpired that major companies, including Microsoft actually helped the NSA “getting around encryption and collect data from Outlook.com, Skype and Skydrive”.

 

  • Data that is collected is divided into actual content and metadata (phone call times, durations etc). The collection of metadata is indiscriminate, as illustrated by Verizon giving the NSA information on all its telephone calls, daily. Data collected by the NSA is from accessing the servers directly, requesting it from the related company or from literally tapping fibre optic cables.

 

  • Apologists make the distinction that the Fourth Amendment protects American – implying foreigners are 2nd class citizens as far as America is concerned. Also claim that content data (ie email content itself) harvested from Americans can only be opened with a court warrant.
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