Oh, And One More Thing: NSA Directly Accessing Information From Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple And More

from the not-a-good-week-for-the-nsa dept

Obviously, the Verizon/NSA situation was merely a small view into just how much spying the NSA is doing on everyone. And it seems to be spurring further leaks and disclosures. The latest, from the Washington Post, is that the NSA has direct data mining capabilities into the data held by nine of the biggest internet/tech companies:

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

This program, like the constant surveillance of phone records, began in 2007, though other programs predated it. They claim that they’re not collecting all data, but it’s not clear that makes a real difference:

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.

I expect we’ll be seeing more such revelations before long.

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Companies: aol, apple, dropbox, facebook, google, microsoft, paltalk, skype, yahoo

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Comments on “Oh, And One More Thing: NSA Directly Accessing Information From Google, Facebook, Skype, Apple And More”

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76 Comments
justok (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But…but…but…They have Core Values!

We will protect national security interests by adhering to the highest standards of behavior:

Lawfulness ? We will adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the laws and regulations of the United States.
Honesty ? We will be truthful with each other, and honor the public’s need for openness, balanced against national security interests.
Integrity ? We will behave honorably and apply good judgment as we would if our activities were under intense public scrutiny.
Fairness ? We will ensure equal opportunity and fairness in Agency policies, programs, and practices.
Accountability ? We will be accountable for our actions and take responsibility for our decisions, practicing wise stewardship of public resources and placing prudent judgment over expediency.
Loyalty ? We will be loyal to the nation, the mission, and each other, weighing ideas solely on the merits and ensuring that decisions enjoy vigorous debate while being made, followed by unified implementation.
Collaboration ? We will cooperate with others in a respectful and open-minded manner, to our mutual success.
Innovation ? We will seek new ways to accomplish our mission, planning for the future based on what we’ve learned from the past, and thinking ahead to the best of our ability to avoid unintended consequences.
Learning ? We will acquire and transfer knowledge, provide the resources and training necessary for our people to remain at the forefront of technology, and individually pursue continuous learning.

Anonymous Coward says:

DNI Clapper misstated facts to Congress

In March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded to a question from Senator Wyden. Then,tThe DNI said that NSA does not wittingly collect any type of data on millions of Americans.

That appears to be a mis-statement. NBC News reported tonight that DNI Clapper now clarifies that he was talking about email and not phone calls. But whether it’s emails or phone calls, it now appears to be a mis-statement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DNI Clapper misstated facts to Congress

Additional source?

?Clapper Clarifies Remarks Over NSA Snooping?, by Michael Hirsh, National Journal (via Yahoo!), June 6, 2013

On March 12, 2013, at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Wyden asked Clapper: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper responded: “No, sir.” When Wyden followed up by asking, “It does not?” Clapper said: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect ? but not wittingly.” Clapper did not specify at the time that he was referring to email.

Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

DNI Clapper: No, sir.

Wyden It does not?

DNI Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect ? but not wittingly.

Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile) says:

Hi Speed Internet means

the NSA can access your info that much faster! That’s why I use a dial-up modem connected to a tin can and string connected to my commodore 64….even if I hadn’t already given all my money to the crown prince of Ethiopia (i’m waiting for my bazillion dollar check to come in the USPS anyday now) you couldn’t get my banking info off of my computator!

And get off my cyber-lawn!

Anonymous Coward says:

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”.

So let me get this straight… the NSA use billions of dollars, break practically all rules about privacy in existence and lie about the whole thing; and the best they can come up with is a system that can do 1% better than tossing a coin… impressive.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Eh, no.

If I was flipping a coin, I would get 50% of positives would test false and vice versa. The negative does not equal the positive, (That is, the number of people under survey are not equally split between ‘american’ and ‘not american’), so a coin flip would perform either much worse or much better. I suspect Americans are probably over-represented on American databases, but OTOH, there’s 5.7 billion non-americans in total vs. 0.3 billion Americans.

And then if the statement can be taken literally, then we’re dealing with confidence, not probability, so that’s another step removed and 51% is an odd number to use. Your confidence in a measurement is how sure you are that the true value falls within a certain range of the measurement. So I might say I have 99% confidence that there is a 19-20% probability of the next batch of mead also coming out sour. (Presumably my measurement would’ve been 19.5% of my batches are sour and my confidence interval would be +/- .5%)

The wider the interval, the higher the confidence, so if it DOES mean confidence, and in the way I took it, 51% implies a very tiny interval. In this case, the interval is probably centred around 100%.

“But then why would they say confidence instead of percent?”
Because the confidence interval grows and shrinks with data variability. The less it varies, the more certain that the prediction of the prediction is true.

coward (anon) says:

Dropbox

If the NSA is about to get backdoor access into DropBox, does anyone have any thoughts about whether cloud encryption apps like CloudFogger or DigitalQuick or CryptSync (the 3 that first came up on a Goggle search) will provide any security (ignore the fact that AES256 may be breakable by the NSA)? None of these apps indicate how their key management is being done, so their keys maybe already be exposed to the NSA?

Not that I have anything to hide from the NSA, no, no, not me. My life is an open book.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does a users “foreignness” matter? If you live in Idaho, I guess it does, but is it so much better to spy on germans, swedes and brits who using these american services?

I’m pretty damn sure I’m foreign by any US standard, but I’m not allowed the protection of law from neither my own country or from the US? Gee. Guess I’m all fucked then huh?

I should start sending fake emails between made up google accounts containing the phrase “don’t forget to set the timer on the device” just to see how long it takes before the cops come banging on my door.

out_of_the_blue says:

So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

http://cheezburger.com/6522441728

Seriously, do you regard this as NEWS? I see that at least “BearGriz72” reads my posts (and thanks for the advance publicity, you embiggen my effect here, ankle-biter), so I can only conclude that Mike has consciously dodged associating NSA and Google (and the rest), but that’s now become untenable. — And on that line, this is just another routine roll-out to accustom the public to the new level of tyranny.

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
http://techdirt.com/
Where Mike’s “no evidence of real harm” means he wants to let secretive mega-corporations continue to grow.
12:29:44[n-842-8]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

?Google cares deeply about the security of our users? data,? a company spokesman 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.?

I like this part: ?We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully.”

So, Google, are you telling me that someone has reviewed all the data that you give to the government? What was your basis for determining whether it was in accordance with the law and what law are you referring to?

Furthermore, are you willing to testify under oath that there is no back door for the government?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

Masnick was named by Google as one of its shills in the Oracle litigation. Look it up it is in the pleadings. Google also paid Masnick to write “The Sky Is Rising” laundering the payment through the CCIA.

gnudist says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

First off, The “shilling” mentioned in the oracle case WAS the sky is rising report WHICH Mike had already disclosed.

Second, being paid by someone does not mean you have to be a mouthpiece for them and it’s entirlely possible to only accept payment for speaking if it does not contradict your own beliefs.

If you were an honest person(or paid attention) you’d note mike’s views are the same as before there even was a google to speak of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

If you were an honest person(or paid attention) you’d note mike’s views are the same as before there even was a google to speak of.

Yes. And his blind devotion to his paymasters continued on and on as Google increasingly spied, violated privacy and abused its monopoly position. I guess that its acknowledged role as information gatherer-in-chief for the NSA finally ended his public adoration (and payments).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So, turnz owt I wuz rite about dat, as I habs been abowt ebbryfing else.

Well if you stretch(extremely) the definition of ‘shill’ to ‘anyone who provides coverage of, or commentary on, a company’s actions’, then Mike would indeed have been proven to be a shill for google in the oracle case.

Of course by that same logic blue, AJ, bob, and any of the other trolls would count as shills for ‘Big Mike’, as they regularly comment on his actions and beliefs(both real and imaginary) on this site themselves.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: This just in: Out_of_His_A$$ Proves he is a moron!

WTF? Seriously?

Seriously, do you regard this as NEWS? I see that at least “BearGriz72” reads my posts (and thanks for the advance publicity, you embiggen my effect here, ankle-biter)…


1) Of course this is news
???? 1a: a report of recent events
???? ???? {...snip...}
???? 2a: material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast
???? 2b: matter that is newsworthy

2) Enclosing my handle in quotes? Implying that it not linked to an actual identity, really?
?????My name is Rick, the handle I have been consistently using on the internet since the mid 1990’s (Damn near 20 years) is BearGriz72. If you had even bothered to look at my profile, you would see that it links to my Google profile (I know you think Google is evil, I don’t, get over it), my twitter account, and even my LinkedIn profile (with my full name and a ton of information about me). Unlike you, who can’t even be bothered to register a profile name (there is no requirement to link it to a real identity, I just choose to), and then you complain when people impersonate you (and even register the name you have been using).

3) RE: “ankle-biter” — FUCK YOU BLUE.
?????I did not & do not post ANYTHING for your benefit, you are a troll, plain and simple, and we will all be better off if/when you give up and go away.

wolfy says:

When Congress was after the White House e-mails for one of the many wrong-doings of that administration, and the White House claimed they were “accidentally” erased, I kept saying that all Congress need do if they really wanted that evidence, would be to subpoena the NSA. I’ve been maintaining they have copies of all cell phone convos and e-mails sent for about the last ten years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Immunity for privacy violations

“PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush?s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection.”

This is why CISPA is so dangerous. It aims to accomplish the same thing for domestic surveillance as the above laws did for surveillance of foreign citizens.

51stState says:

not trying, doing?

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations

How about the companies that participate unknowingly?

the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

Collecting it all would be easier than trying to exclude the cat gifs.

Anonymous Coward says:

NSA, FBI secretly mining data from Internet firms…
‘THEY QUITE LITERALLY CAN WATCH YOUR IDEAS AS YOU TYPE’…
Top secret PRISM program…
MICROSOFTYAHOOGOOGLEYOUTUBEFACEBOOKSKYPEAPPLE…
Obama administration collecting phone records of millions daily…
Secret court order requires VERIZON to hand over ALL CALL DATA…
White House: Critical tool against ‘terrorist threats’…
Specifically targeted Americans, not foreigners…
‘Homeland Security’: Laptops, phones can be searched based on hunches…
NSA SEES ALL: Phone Sex, Banks, Emails…
CIA: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher…
‘1984’ Published 64 Years Ago Today…

Now you know why we who support the second amendment do so so adamantly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Did Intelligence Officials Lie to Congress?

?[UPDATED] Did Intelligence Officials Lie to Congress about NSA Domestic Spying??, by Sean Lawson, Forbes, June 6, 2013

In July 2011, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) sent a letter to the NSA asking for answers about its collection of data on American citizens. The NSA?s response read, in part,

You asked whether communications of Americans have been collected? Section 702 of the FAA [FISA Amendments Act] explicitly prohibits the intentional targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located in the United States or United States persons located abroad. The Intelligence Community has put in place a variety of procedures, which have been approved by the FISA Court as required by law, to ensure that only persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States are targeted and to prevent the intentional acquisition of any communications as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known to be located in the United States. Guidelines are also required by law to ensure compliance with other limitations on FAA collection, including the requirement that a U.S. person may not be intentionally targeted under section 702. If it is discovered that a target has entered the U.S. or is a U.S. person, he or she is promptly detargeted and reports are made as appropriate to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the FISA Court. Moreover, when communications from persons located in the United States are collected because they are communicating with a lawful target, the privacy and civil liberty rights of U.S. persons are protected through the careful implementation of the procedures required under the FAA to ?minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination? of information about U.S. persons.??

(Emphasis is from cited story; not in original letter.)

Did that response intentionally misstate the facts?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We live in a police state.
To be secure we have tacitly approved them stripping away our rights and leaving only the illusion of them behind.

We are all to busy screaming about abortion, guns rights, terrorism, etc. to bother to notice. It is time to call your congress critter and ask them why this is acceptable. Then inform them they will be replaced unless they act to stop it.

We have gone through the looking glass, this is wholesale spying on Americans and they must be doing a piss poor job as they were unable to catch those banks helping terrorists hide their money.

This is not freedom, this is not democracy, this is insanity.
We have so many freedoms here…
The freedom to not hear about the government breaking the law, because they go after the whistle blowers.
The freedom to not share a private thought with another, without it being checked to see if it looks 51% like your a terrorist.
The freedom to have our personal document searched and seized at the border in constitution free zones that are pushing in on the country.
The freedom to protest, but only in designated zones where you will be photographed and placed under surveillance.
The freedom to fund a program that wastes money and exposed people to unknown amounts of radiation so some people hired form the tops of pizza boxes could see us naked.

9/11 was a horrible thing… but it fucking pales in comparison to the horrific dismantling of our rights and freedoms.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Now?

If ever there were a time to foment an rebellion it is now. An American Spring.

Every single one of you that took the oath to the Constitution – your oath demands your allegiance. There is no other precedent and there is no other law that supersedes the core text of that document. It is your superior.

If the Declaration of Independence is your king then your queen is surely the Constitution. Only their subjects can defend their reign. There is no heir. There are brigands and mercenaries embedded. Secrecy and deceit abrogate your rights.

If you find yourself on the floor of the Senate and hold your tongues in the face of treachery then you are treasonous, indeed. You hold your tongues to protect yourselves from jail? You have risked the freedoms and rights of all that you represent yet you are beholden to a cabal of secrecy that can not be reigned in, challenged nor tried?

There is no safety among traitors as there is no honor among thieves.

Do you truly believe that WE are so weak and that WE are in peril? Make your case! The King’s subjects will not be idled. Terror will never reign and The Freedoms are not for sale.

It is not a fine line that we walk. It is not a delicate balance. The babe that you deign to cradle does not cry.

Arm yourselves. Mind your tongues. Your government deceives you. Your country requires you.

Soon, all of you, must, inevitably, represent yourselves. Long live the king.

aldestrawk says:

the naming of things

Prism is a colorful euphemism for siphoning off private information and communications directly from company servers. I would prefer the name “vampire tap” which also has the basic meaning of creating a branch off a communications network for those old-timers who remember the yellow coaxial cables for Ethernet. It also has the more truthful connotation of sucking the lifeblood from the American people. Then again, maybe the younger crowd, who seem to idolize vampires, wouldn’t mind.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

-But they do right?? I mean since when did the government care about rules? Rules are only for common folks like us, are they releasing this supposedly 7-year-old news to divert us from their IRS fiasco?

Ramona says:

contacted by two generals in one day on skype

well you tell me why I was contacted today by two generals after posting on my skype account jajajaja spies are everywhere! Is that just some kind of weird fluke, or are there Generals who (both happen to be my age) running around trying to find a date? I found this extremely weird, especially since I have made it quite clear that I do believe we are being spied on. They might need a warrant to pursue a person AFTER they figure out someone is bad, but meanwhile I really truly believe they are listening and reading our emails etc, and do not care if you have to have a warrant or not. That is what they were all haranguing about today, that no way they listen or read our emails. That they HAVE to have a warrant, but I know that is a bunch of malarkey. Anyhow I thought it really strange. I am wondering if it is possible to impersonate someone on skype? take care thanks Ramona Ray

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