PRISM: What’s behind this NSA surveillance tool lurking about your Facebook page?
The PRISM program has been sucking up what most people would think of as personal information on Google, Facebook, Skype, and other Internet providers. What’s up with the NSA's secret surveillance effort?
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Ideally, PRISM was designed to help keep Americans safe. Does that mean the secret program’s exposure could have the opposite result?Skip to next paragraph
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In his remarks on the revelations Friday, President Obama echoed intelligence experts – both inside and outside the government – who predicted that potential attackers will find other, secretive ways to communicate now that they know that their phone and Internet records may be targeted.
An al-Qaida affiliated website on Saturday warned against using the Internet to discuss issues related to militant activities in three long articles on what it called "America's greatest and unprecedented scandal of spying on its own citizens and people in other countries,” reports the Associated Press.
"Caution: Oh brothers, it is a great danger revealing PRISM, the greatest American spying project," wrote one member. "A highly important caution for the Internet jihadis ... American intelligence gets information from Facebook and Google," wrote another.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about the initial reporting on NSA surveillance of personal data.
CNET, the tech media website, headlines a long piece Friday “No evidence of NSA's 'direct access' to tech companies.” CNET quotes its own anonymous intelligence insiders, and it notes some backtracking on the original stories.
We haven’t heard the end of PRISM, which CNET chief political correspondent Declan McCullagh says is simply an unclassified data processing tool used for other intelligence purposes as well and standing for “Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management.”
Not much James Bondian about that … or maybe there is.
As the Guardian reported Saturday, “A far fuller picture of the exact operation of PRISM, and the other surveillance operations brought to light, is expected to emerge in the coming weeks and months.”
One more mystery to be solved: Why was Twitter not included in the nine Internet providers listed above?
USA Today’s Scott Martin speculates on two explanations for Twitter's absence.
“Twitter has a history of noncompliance and fighting information requests against its users,” he writes.
"As we've said many times before, Twitter users own their Tweets,” Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser is quoted as saying. “They have a right to fight invalid government requests, and we stand with them in that fight.”
“Another explanation for Twitter's absence is that the bulk of its data – aside from direct messages – is publicly available in the form of tweets,” Martin writes. “That separates it from the likes of Yahoo and Google, which house years of personal emails and data on people.”
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