It's just an unaccountable government run amok kind of week I guess. The Washington Post
and The Guardian
have both unearthed details of yet another secret NSA program named "PRISM" that involves tapping into the servers of nine prominent Internet companies for real-time data monitoring: Google, Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype, PalTalk, Apple, and AOL. If you're wondering, PalTalk is included in that list of heavy hitters because it carried a lot of communications around the Middle East during the Arab Spring.
The program was unearthed after a 41 page Powerpoint presentation used to train operatives was somehow leaked to the press. According to that presentation, PRISM gives the government unprecedented access to both live and
stored communications on these companies networks.
The revelation occurs as the government has been busy claiming they need the laws changed even further
to accommodate the real-time spying of traffic on social media network (particularly of the encrypted variety). As I've often noted, intelligence organizations break the law first, then get the laws changed after the fact.
Both reports indicate the width and breadth of the data collected from each company differs. Each company also appears to have joined the program at different times. According to the reports, PRISM collects actual data and runs alongside another program code-named BLARNEY that simply focuses on metadata, the kind of which (dates, times, headers) was the focus of this week's Verizon revelation. It's reasonable to assume carrier/iSP NSA spying works the same way, with the NSA collecting real-time and stored data (what AT&T employee Mark Klein unearthed
(pdf) years ago), supplemented with the metadata requests we saw exposed this week with the Verizon story.
As with the live wiretaps placed at ISPs, these backdoors allow the government to obtain private user information without specific individual requests, warrants, or court orders. The revelation will, obviously, add to the furor that was already surrounding this week's additional revelation about carrier involvement in wholesale domestic spying, which of course was tacked on to the anger about snooping into journalist phone records
, which was tacked on to...etc, etc, etc.
Again, like the Verizon revelations, none of this is particularly surprising to the six of you paying attention -- the government's goal has clearly been to spy on everything, everywhere in real time -- then try to change laws after the fact, long after they'd already been breaking the law for years. Have I mentioned you have absolutely no real privacy online lately?