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NSA PRISM Program Mines Online, Social Media Data

June 6, 2013

NSA Prism Program Spy on Americans

By Gilbert Falso :: 7:44 PM

In a discovery that leaves privacy advocates and many Americans reeling, for the second time in as many days, a National Security Agency (NSA) program that gathers data on U.S. citizens has been uncovered.

The NSA along with the FBI have been given the ability to tap directly into the databases of nine major online services and Internet companies in the United States. The highly classified project is known by the code name PRISM, and includes the following companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. The companies are listed in the order they were placed into the PRISM program.

The spy agency is increasingly relying on the data it gathers from these online services via the PRISM program.  The Washington Post cites sources that claim the President’s Daily Brief has sourced PRISM data in 1,477 articles over the past year. The data is used in roughly 1 out of every 7 intelligence reports the agency puts together.

In addition to the nine companies who already participate in the program, the NSA is getting ready to add another company to its roster, cloud storage service DropBox.

Intelligence officers have access to all data that streams through participating company servers and databases. The most popular types of data pulled out for analysis are emails; chat transcripts; videos; photos; stored data, such as files and documents; VoIP calls and logs; file transfer contents; and time, length, and location of user login information.

Microsoft was the first company to join the program, on September 11, 2007. Yahoo joined in March of 2008, Google in January of 2009, Facebook in June 2009, PalTalk in December 2009, YouTube in September 2010, Skype in February 2011, AOL in March 2011, and Apple in October 2012.

The approximate cost of the PRISM collection program is $20 million per year, according to slides obtained by the Washington Post.