Since September 11th, 2001, the United States government has dramatically increased the ability of its intelligence agencies to collect and investigate information on both foreign subjects and US citizens. Some of these surveillance programs, including a secret program called PRISM, capture the private data of citizens who are not suspected of any connection to terrorism or any wrongdoing.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS PRISM:
PRISM is a tool used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. It’s the latest evolution of the US government’s post-9/11 electronic surveillance efforts, which began under President Bush with the Patriot Act, and expanded to include the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted in 2006 and 2007.
There’s still a debate on its functioning but basic idea is that is collects data from major sites and tech companies.
On a simple sentence Prism is a government logger that is spread all over the internet, and collecting the data of every single user.
As The Washington Post reported, The Protect America Act of 2007 led to the creation of a secret NSA program called US-984XN — also known as PRISM.
WHAT DOES NSA RECORD:
NSA programs collect two kinds of data: metadata and content. Metadata is the sensitive byproduct of communications, such as phone records that reveal the participants, times, and durations of calls; the communications collected by PRISM include the contents of emails, chats, VoIP calls, cloud-stored files, and more.ernet metadata includes information such as email logs, geolocation data (IP addresses), and web search histories.
An analyst starts by inputting “selectors” (search terms) into a system like PRISM, which then “tasks” information from other collection sites, known as SIGADs (Signals Intelligence Activity Designators). SIGADs have both classified and unclassified code names, and are tasked for different types of data — one called NUCLEON gathers the contents of phone conversations, while others like MARINA store internet metadata.
THE REAL HERO:
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old intelligence contractor formerly employed by the NSA, CIA, and Booz Allen Hamilton, confessed responsibility for leaking the PRISM documents. He revealed himself on June 9th, three days after reports on PRISM were published; in an interview with The Guardian, Snowden said, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things,” and claimed he was motivated by civic duty to leak classified information.
Snowden left the United States prior to leaking the documents in order to avoid capture, taking refuge in Hong Kong — where he stayed until June 23rd. With the assistance of WikiLeaks, Snowden fled Hong Kong for Moscow, and has requested asylum in Ecuador, Russia, and other countries. He is still residing in a Moscow airport, waiting to be granted asylum.