Today is the “anniversary” of my mom passing away; everyone please take a moment to give someone you care about a hug or a kiss and dont forget to say those three magical words that can make someone’s day, week, month or year, even when everything else may be going wrong in their lives, because you never know when it’ll be the last chance you ever get to say or do that and yes it does make a HUGE difference……
Doing much better now as I’ve been told, hopefully will soon be healthy enough to talk to everyone who cares about her!
Bombshell Report: NSA and FBI ‘Tapping Directly’ Into Tech Companies’ Servers
The first slide of the PowerPoint deck on which the Post’s report is based (Washington Post).
Following in the wake of The Guardian’s revelation that the National Security Agency had compelled at least one telecom company (Verizon) to hand over its customers’ call records, the Washington Post has published a startling report that says nine major Internet companies have been secretly cooperating with the NSA and FBI as well.
The government is “tapping directly” into servers at Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, “extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.”
The program is code-named PRISM. It began in 2007 and has experienced what the Post called “six years of exponential growth.” It is now “s the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports.” Here’s how the story’s authors, Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, describe the operation:
The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.
Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially.
The Guardian, which ran its own story on PRISM (presumably from the same source), got several tech companies on the record denying “any knowledge of any such program.”
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What Google and NSA Snoops Have in Common
We knew the Bush administration played fast and loose with Americans’ privacy but it’s now been confirmed that President Obama is no less keen on spying on his citizens. According to a court order obtained by the Guardian and published overnight, Verizon Business, a subsidiary of the giant telecoms operator Verizon, has been ordered to supply the National Security Agency with call records of all its customers for three months ending on July 19. It’s a good bet that this isn’t the first such order, and that other telcos are supplying the same information.
In a broad sense, this is fairly standard stuff: government bodies–and not just intelligence agencies–routinely request access to these records for matters ranging from tax fraud to day-to-day law enforcement. But what’s alarming to civil-liberties advocates is that the NSA’s hoovering up of information is focused not on suspicious individuals but on every user of Verizon’s network: It’s pre-emptive data collection, on the off-chance that it might one day be needed.
This is less surprising that it should be. The world’s biggest internet companies got rich doing exactly the same thing. Like the security apparatus, they too are eager to gather every last speck of information about you. One group does it to target better ads and build more omniscient products. The other does it in the interests of national security.
Take Google, for example. A year ago, it “streamlined” privacy policies across its dozens of services into a single document. The point was for Google to consolidate disparate chunks of information about each of its user to get a unified picture of who they were and what were doing online. Signing into Google while browsing–by keeping a Gmail window open, for instance–allows the service to keep track of its users’ activities on other sites. Facebook also tracks its users with the little “Like” button scattered across the web. With every new service these firms roll out, they gather more and more information, all of which gives them a richer and more nuanced picture of their users. And there there are the various companies that do nothing except collect and sell personal information. In the era of “big data,” government agencies would be an anomaly if they didn’t collect everything they could.
For Google and Facebook, the purpose is to “organize the world’s information” and “to make the world more open and connected.” A little synthesis and you could describe the NSA’s mission: “to make the world’s information more open (for the NSA) and connected (to properly understand it).”
Google understood that having its users’ information sprinkled meant it was missing vital connections. The NSA similarly understands the power of consolidating data. Focus on a few “persons of interest” and you risk missing an obscure connection here or an obvious one there. But match phone records with credit-card information, travel details, emails and more, and you can paint a startlingly accurate portrait of any individual.
Equally important, it is possible to draw broad trends about groups. It’s what the the hackers down at Menlo Park like to call your mining your “social graph,” except that the NSA has better tools. In its own words, its “systems environment is a haven for computer scientists,” with “access to acres of hardware, software years ahead of current commercial technology” and “vast networks able to manipulate and analyze huge volumes of data at mind-boggling speeds.” Think Facebook’s graph search and multiply that by a googol.
Internet activists are rightly concerned by the consolidation of power in the world’s largest internet companies. But they seem lilliputian compared to gigantic volumes of data quietly being accumulated by governments. To call it Orwellian would be a cliche; it is just plain terrifying.
Verizon customers outraged at the revelation that the company has been turning over their phone records to the U.S. government can do little to dodge the government surveillance program, even by switching phone carriers, telecommunications experts said.
“I think it’s quite probable, given the breadth of the Verizon order, that similar orders have been granted for all major telephone companies,” said Sascha Meinrath, vice president of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank. “We are likely looking at a nation-wide fishing expedition of everyone’s phone records and geolocation, updated daily and covering nearly every call originating in the U.S.”
The Guardian reported late Wednesday that Verizon was turning over customer phone records to the National Security Agency to comply with a court order under the Patriot Act. The order, which took effect in April and expires in July, does not apply to the content of communications, but rather so-called metadata — the location, duration and time of phone calls and the identities of callers.
It was unclear Thursday whether other phone companies had received a similar order because such orders are classified and the companies are barred from discussing them. Verizon and AT&T declined to comment.
On Thursday, the Obama administration called the collection of Americans’ phone records “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.”
Such domestic surveillance programs aren’t new. USA Today reported in 2006 that the NSA was compiling a database of call records obtained from U.S. phone companies. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued AT&T on behalf of its customers, arguing the company had violated major privacy laws.
But in 2008, Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give the phone companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits.
“That basically pulled the rug out for plaintiffs,” said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, a public interest group.
Wood expected “some sort of consumer backlash” against Verizon for its role in the newly disclosed surveillance program, but noted that past outrage over phone companies’ participation in domestic wiretapping has been short-lived.
“People get angry, but that anger subsides after a while,” he said.
Even switching to smaller phone companies would not shield Americans from government collection of their call records because small carriers run their data over larger carriers’ neworks, according to Karl Bode, a telecom industry analyst and editor of the blog Broadband Reports.
“The sad irony of this is that consumers and taxpayers are the ones paying to be spied on, whether it’s higher rates on their cell phone bill to adhere with wiretap requests, or the taxpayer dollars needed to expand the NSA’s supercomputer warehouses being designed to dig through all of this data,” Bode said.
Bode and Wood both said that upset Verizon customers do have one recourse: to vote for lawmakers who pledge to amend surveillance laws to protect privacy.
“Consumers like to complain about it, but it’s unclear how many bother to vote their conscience at the polls — which is about all you can do in response,” Bode said. “Complaining on Twitter certainly doesn’t accomplish much.”
page also has tech to help you avoid wiretapping
here is the secret court order