A U.S. government surveillance agency has gained unprecedented access to Americans’ digital communications.
Under a program called PRISM, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been able to compile data on virtually every bit of electronic communications conducted by U.S. citizens. The revelations are found in a classified PowerPoint presentation leaked to the U.K.’s Guardian. According to the document, data is collected “directly from the servers” of leading digital services providers.
Included in the data available to the NSA is email content, Internet search histories, videos and photos shared online, chat conversations and file uploads and downloads. Disclosure of the PRISM program is likely to renew debate over measures found in the Patriot Act, passed by Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that broadened government surveillance powers. It will also likely spur a reappraisal of the FISA Amendment Act, which extended the governments powers, adopted last year over vocal objections from some lawmakers.
The PowerPoint presentation indicates that consumer data is being collected with the assistance of the following nine major companies:
- Apple (AAPL)
- Google (GOOG)
- Microsoft (MSFT)
- Yahoo (YHOO)
- Facebook (FB)
- YouTube (owned by Google)
- Skype (owned by Microsoft)
- AOL (AOL)
The document obtained by the Guardian indicates that Microsoft became the first company involved in PRISM in 2007, while Apple was the last, added in 2012.
On Thursday, Apple and Google issued statements denying participation in any program to give the government direct access to their data networks without a warrant.