You've never heard of the NSA's "PRISM" project, but it might know lots about you: according to a new report by the Washington Post, the agency has been secretly collecting enormous, intimate troves of internet data from the biggest tech companies in the world. They can watch you as you type.
PRISM (that surely stands for something terrifying), which was created in 2007 but has only been revealed today, is essentially a blanket wiretap for the internet: it records "audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs" from virtually every major tech company: "Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple,” and cloud storage service Dropbox is “coming soon," according to the NSA. If there were any way for the American people to have a more insidious relationship with Facebook, this is probably it.
That's spooky enough, but here's the part that'll really make your stomach drop: PRISM seems like an entirely voluntary setup between Silicon Valley mainstays and the NSA:
Formally, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies like Yahoo and AOL are obliged accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA.
All it takes to tap into your account is a modicum of suspicion (whose suspicion? Who knows!), and from there, a government operator can look at pretty much everything you've ever done online. Your Facebook messages, photos, private emails, web searches—if you can imagine it, it's likely ripe for NSA plucking through PRISM, without delay: “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” an NSA officer told the Post. That's much worse than the already-bad Verizon spying deal, and yes, your Gmail and Skype calls are up for grabs too:
According to a separate “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection,” that service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of “audio, video, chat, and file transfers” when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.
It's so simple to use, all an NSA officer needs is a user manual.
Twitter is notably absent, but for all we know, it's also "coming soon." So, in summation: almost anything you've done online for the past six years has been fair game to American spies by virtue of a secret law. Like this post if you think that's rotten!