The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been named in a massive surveillance operation which includes monitoring activity on multiple U.S. carriers and service providers.
Dubbed PRISM, the operation involves collecting data traveling through the U.S. as part of a larger campaign to gather intelligence of international communications. The project has been reported on by The Guardian and The Washington Post citing leaked government documents.
The PRISM archive collects and stores data from multiple companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, AOL, and Skype, according to reports. The collected information is then made available to U.S. agencies for use in domestic and international investigations.
In the leaked documents, the agency notes that the archive is especially useful for overseas investigations as users will commonly rely on free or low-cost services which run through U.S. companies.
According to the report, the PRISM program goes back a number of years to programs set up by the Bush administration to collect intelligence. The Washington Post alleges that members of Congress have known about the archive for years but were prevented from disclosing the information.
Since the news broke, several of the companies have issues widely reported statements denying involvement.
Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.
We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.
We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.
Yahoo takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.
We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers.
Several of the companies named in the report have already been providing regular public reports on their government dealings. Google has long maintained a series of reports on government requests for data on users. The company reports that it declines most of those requests.
Twitter, likewise, has begun disclosing its dealings with the U.S. government. The company said that is has seen requests for customer information booming in recent years.