20 March 2014, 09:20

Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook knew about PRISM surveillance - NSA

Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook knew about PRISM surveillance - NSA

The top lawyer for the National Security Agency told a civil liberties oversight board on Wednesday  that companies such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook knew all about the NSA surveillance program PRISM, the Guardian reported.

That effort extracted user data such as photos, emails and documents stored in the cloud by big Internet services, allowing NSA analysts to track users communications.

PRISM is a surveillance program designed to collect and process "foreign intelligence" that passes through American servers.

The law that authorized the program was 2008's Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The Guardian reported that when asked if collection of communications and associated metadata occurred with the "full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained," NSA general counsel Rajesh De said, "Yes."

Since RISM was exposed to the public in Jubne, when of documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden was released, tech companies, including AOL, Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo denied involvement in anygovernment data collection operation, and have fought for increased transparency regarding requests for data and increased security measures.

De explained to the board that "PRISM was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term." Data collection under PRISM, he said, was a "compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive."

De and his colleagues also rejected the board's suggestion to limit searches inside 702 databases."If you have to go back to court every time you look at the information in your custody, you can imagine that would be quite burdensome," testified Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general.

"That information is at the government's disposal to review in the first instance," De added.

However, De cited privacy risks when explaining why the agency does not search the communication data of American citizens "taken directly" from the Internet, the Guardian said.

It is unclear what sort of legal process the government serves on a company to compel communications content and metadata access under Prism or through upstream collection. Documents leaked from Snowden indicate that the NSA possesses unmediated access to the company data. The secret Fisa court overseeing US surveillance for the purposes of producing foreign intelligence issues annual authorisations blessing NSA’s targeting and associated procedures under Section 702.

Read also:

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Pentagon watchdog admits he had no clue about massive NSA phone data collection

Voice of Russia, The Guardian, News.cnet.com, Readwrite.com

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