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Ear to the Ground

Leak: NSA Has Backdoor Access to Google, Apple, Microsoft and More

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Posted on Jun 6, 2013
Shutterstock illustration of e-mail spying.

A career intelligence officer has leaked the existence of a top secret program called PRISM, which gives the government direct access to files, including photos, e-mails and video chats, hosted by the biggest technology companies.

According to a leaked PowerPoint presentation, the corporations involved include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Skype, AOL, Yahoo and, coming soon, Dropbox.

The program reportedly gives the National Security Agency, among others, the ability to pull private conversations, files and ideas from company servers. As The Washington Post points out, the NSA is not supposed to spy on Americans, but that seems to be what is happening:

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

In the last few years, all of the major technology companies have been pushing users to move their data to “the cloud.” Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple have all argued that they can do a better job protecting your photos, documents and communications than you can. Now it seems users have voluntarily transferred their private information into the hands of not just corporations, but the government as well.

Update: Google, Apple, Facebook and other companies named by the Washington Post story have denied knowledge of or participation in PRISM.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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