What is the NSA's PRISM program? (FAQ)

Navigation menu

NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others
The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired. Can they read my iMessage? Retrieved July 11, On 28 October the Spanish government summoned the American ambassador, James Costos , to address allegations that the U. The complaint asks the Court to find the Defendants' program unconstitutional, and seeks an injunction. Daly observed that, "The problem is not just what the National Security Agency is gathering at the risk of our privacy but what it is apparently unable to monitor at the risk of our safety.

Share your voice

NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program. In a statement, Google said: 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.

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of Prism. The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants. Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers. The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services.

Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world's largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in Microsoft — which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" — was the first, with collection beginning in December The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks. Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users' communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies' servers. The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December , who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA's inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies' servers.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement Thursday night saying that "Section is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U. How does it work? The attorney general issues a secret order to a tech company to hand over access to its data to the FBI. But many technical questions remain, such as: Is the data printed out and handed to an NSA operative?

Is an NSA operative stationed on the company's campus at a specific work station designed for such transactions? On Tuesday, June 11, Google went to Wired Magazine in an attempt to answer some of these lingering questions. Google spokesman Chris Gaither flatly denied giving direct access to Google's servers, stating:.

One thing to note about this answer is that in order for the secure FTP transfer to take place, it looks as though Google does have a special encrypted dropbox on campus -- which you could technically call a "company server" -- that stores and delivers the requested data. It is very different from total, real-time access to Google's main servers. Is this the same as the data Verizon is giving to the NSA?

The data Verizon gives to the NSA is only metadata, so although the government can see who you call and how long you talk to them, they are not listening in on your voice mails and phone calls. But again, that's a separate NSA program. For more information on it, read this. Well, so far respected human rights watchdog Freedom House has downgraded America's freedom ranking.

Last time their survey was released, the United States was the second most free country on Earth in terms of Internet freedoms. That position is about to change. Should I be outraged? You can trust us. Who is to blame for this? On Congress, for legislating such powers, on the FISA court for being such a paper tiger and rubber stamp, and on the Obama administration for not being true to its values. This "Co-traveler" program allows us to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.

When the data we seek resides in places we cannot access using the above surveillance techniques, we rely on the technical experts in the Tailored Access Operations Group and their specialized tools from the ANT Product Catalog.

The categories of available tools are listed below. An FBI fleet of over one hundred specially-modified Cessna planes equipped with sophisticated camera systems in steerable mounts that can provide detailed video, night vision, and infrared thermal imaging quietly fly circular routes daily around many major U. Zoom in and click on the red map markers to view images of the unusual flight patterns in the FBI's targeted areas. View the map in full-screen mode.

We are happy to report that no action has been taken on this bill and we have every confidence that Congress will agree with us that mass surveillance "IS" protection for our citizens. You can track the progress of this ill-advised bill below. Each system is responsible for different types of intercepted data. There are two methods employed for tapping into the undersea cable network. A modified nuclear submarine houses the technicians and gear needed to place the physical taps on the undersea cables along strategic points in the network.

The second method involves using intercept probes at the point where the cables connect to the landing stations in various countries. These probes capture and copy the data as it flows onward. As data flows through our worldwide data collection points, the XKeyscore system indexes and stores this information in a rolling three-day buffer database containing all internet activity passing through each collection site.

XKeyscore is a massive distributed Linux cluster with over servers distributed around the world. The theory behind XKeyscore is simple: People spend a large amount of time on the web performing actions that are anonymous. We can use this traffic to detect anomalies which can lead us to intelligence by itself, or provide a selection path for further inquiries.


Leave a Reply

PRISM is a code name for a program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) collects internet communications from various U.S. internet companies. [1] [2] [3] The program is also known by the SIGAD USXN. Sep 15,  · Since the Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the existence of the NSA's PRISM program last week, there's been a confusing debate about what exactly the program is and how it works. A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program. The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top.