Big brother is watching. The whole world might be thinking about that now as leaked documents from unnamed sources reached the desks of The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI snoop into servers of nine tech companies in the U.S. to mine data as part of its intelligence gathering to protect Americans.
The alleged top secret documents consist of 41 PowerPoint slides and disclosed that the U.S. government extracts documents, e-mails, chats, photographs and other data that can help security experts track down foreign targets. The said document is intended for senior analysts of the NSA.
The data collection project is dubbed as PRISM. The purported program is said to tap into the data from the servers of companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, PalTalk, Skype, YouTube, and AOL, according to the report by Washington Post.
The leaked document gave an overview of how PRISM works. It listed the companies involved in the project, the dates when the technology companies started participating in the program, and what possible data can be intercepted as raw material for intelligence analysis.
Amid the PRISM scandal, the named U.S. companies have denied the allegations that they participated in the program.
"We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law," explained Joe Sullivan, chief security officer of Facebook who reached out to The Washington Post to clarify issues.
"We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order," Steve Dowling, a spokesperson for Apple clarified.
"We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don't participate in it," said an official statement of Microsoft.
"Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. 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," stated Google via a correspondence with The Guardian.
Yahoo and Dropbox have also denied involvement with the PRISM program.
Meanwhile, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence issued statements about the unauthorized disclosure of the top secret documents and offered an explanation of what is authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that paved the way for the said program. These statements were made to reiterate that the reports that appeared on The Guardian and The Washington Post contained numerous inaccuracies.
The water is getting murkier. Stay tuned.