10 June 2013

Leaked documents have brought to light that US governments have the ability to access detailed records of individuals smartphone and internet activity via a scheme called ‘Prism’.

Through ‘Prism’ the US have access to chat logs (audio and video), stored data, photographs, emails, voice traffic, file transfers as well as social networking data.  This fundamentally covers anything that anyone has ever done online!  ‘Prism’ allows full access, it not only confirms that an email has been sent but has access to the email/chat content as well.  All privacy is lost! Your information is being read as you type it.

Through a hidden partnership between the NSA, FBI and nearly every tech company the US government have access to our personal information. This has been in effect for at least the past six years, since 2007.

A former technical worker for the CIA, Ed Snowden, revealed himself to be the source of the leaks.  He found the extent of the US surveillance “horrifying” and acted on his concerns over privacy.

The process is believed to work as follows. Tech companies including Google, Microsoft, Skype, Apple, YouTube, AOL, Facebook, PalTalk and Yahoo but not limited to these receive a command from the attorney general and the director of intelligence.  The tech companies then allow access to their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which then conveys to the NSA.

The tech companies mentioned above have denied any participation in this ‘Prism’ scheme.

What’s disturbing about the Prism scheme is that it is not technically illegal.  The US government have the authority.  In 2007 the ‘Protect America Act’ made it possible for targets to be electronically surveyed without warrant. This act was followed by the FISA Amendments Act in 2008 which protected companies from legal harm for supplying information to the government thus making ‘Prism’ legal.

Different countries follow varying laws regarding data protection.  The regulations predominantly regulate the information companies are allowed to hold, duration that the data can be held for and how the data can be used.   Most companies have a clause in their privacy policy stating their entitlement to pass on information to governments if legally obliged to do so.

With data most of the time not stored in the same country of user residence and the likelihood of it being stored in the US gives the American government easy access to data of non-Americans as well.  Thus even if you do not reside in the US your privacy is being compromised as the leading tech companies are based in America.

It has not yet been confirmed whether other governments around the world have been aware of or involved in the use of ‘Prism’.

Privacy while using the internet has always been a concern. Since most of the leading tech companies are based in America in essence anyone is at risk of having their privacy dishonoured through ‘Prism’.

For a detailed look at the types of data vulnerable through the various tech companies and ‘Prism’ follow the BBC link below and continue to read ‘What data could Prism possibly access’.