A report from the Washington Post and the Guardian released Thursday evening claim that a program called PRISM allows the National Security Agency (NSA) direct access to the internet servers of many tech firms. The report raises the question, again, on the extent of the role played by the National Security Agency in the communications of American citizens.


About the NSA PRISM program

Both the reports based the claims on a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation, which according to Guardian “was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program.” One of the slides mentions a $20 million/per year price tag on the data diving. It also reveals the dates when the various tech companies join the program.

The software giant, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) joined the group in 2007. Others in the program include Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), PalTalk (popular in Syria), YouTube, Skype and AOL. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) joined in October 2012. The list doesn’t include the popular names like Twitter and Snapchat. Phew.

Another slide titled “what you will receive,” says it depends on the provider but includes email, chat, videos, photos, stored data, VoIP, file transfers, video conferencing, logins, and online social networking details.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) And Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Responses:

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) in a statement negated any “‘back door’ for the government to access private user data,” says a report from Guardian. Many companies named in the list, after the publication of report, issued their comments, with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) telling CNBC that it has never heard of PRISM.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s Response:

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan told Forbes that the company has done nothing to provide “any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers.”

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Response:

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) also told in a statement that it only provides information on “specific accounts or identifiers” and that too only when it receives a “legally binding order or subpoena to do so.”

Responding to report, lawmakers said that they will investigate the National Security Agency’s program “that collects phone records of millions of people.”

However, Marc Ambinder comes in defense of the NSA, saying when the agency collects a data it is kept secured, and NSA collects the data only when there is a need to “search through them for lawful purposes.”

The report if true can have severe consequences, in addition to arousing mass resentment from the users. The report from The Washington Post claims that the source of information is from a “career intelligence officer.”