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back to article Forget phones, PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything

It has been a rough 24 hours for the US National Security Agency. First a leaked court order (and the political reaction) showed that the agency routinely harvests US mobile-use data, and now a new document has been uncovered that claims to show the larger internet companies do the same thing. A 41-page presentation, given in …

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Soctt's quote is valuable here:

You have no privacy, get over it!

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Big Brother

Re: Soctt's quote is valuable here:

Funny about that ... Scott tweeted this today:

https://twitter.com/scottmcnealy/status/342632922672664577

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Soctt's quote is valuable here:

I thought it was "You have no privacy, live with it."

I don't see what the big deal is, the government owns the infrastructure, and as I've said many times that if there was ever a perfect encryption mechanism, it would be circumvented.

We've been in this situation since WW2, and I don't see people dragged off the streets and tortured. (Well no-one I care about.)

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Re: Soctt's quote is valuable here:

These draconian orders require the companies to bald face lie to their customers about the collection. Yes that bill they ram rodded through Congress protects them from legal liability but good will loss doesn't require a court judgement.

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Anonymous Coward

Why are the right wing nut groups so scary?

Because they have been right so many times. They have been saying for very many years that the Government has been monitoring all communications. I was one of the people who said " yeah right" and ignored them. Same thing about the IRS targeting people based on political beliefs.

Not sure AC is doing me any good but I have to at least make the effort.

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Re: Why are the right wing nut groups so scary?

We're a left-wing country here in Canada, so here it is the "left wing nut groups" that were warning us of surveillance.

Strange thing is though, surveillance is neither a right-wing nor a left-wing thing, right-wing dictators snoop just as much as Communist dictators.

Instead, this sort of widespread in-depth surveillance is an extremist thing, it is on the extremist/moderate axis.

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Re: Why are the right wing nut groups so scary?

Yep right wing and left wing circle back on each other at the extremes. Right wing wants to tell you what to do, left wing wants to tell you what you can have/deserve. Broken wings all around.

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Unhappy

Legs?

More like their collective ass!

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Unhappy

I Am Sad

It's not like I had shedloads of trust for these guys anyway, but I really and truly didn't think it was as bad as all the stuff I've been hearing the past couple of says. I'm honestly sad.

Slow clap for naive me.

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Re: I Am Sad

Fair enough. Now, what are we going to do about it? There's inertia behind it, and many of the elected ones have come out condoning the operation. Almost leads me to think that the NSA has some high-quality blackmail on all of the politicians, and told them, "Defend our little program, or the skeletons in your closet see daylight." This is obviously a problem, and a sacrifice may need to be made to take a stand against this evil (one of the politicians will have to take a stand, despite whatever disgrace it will result in, if only to put up the seed of some resistance against this monstrosity). An annoyance, since even I despise the concept of sacrifices...mainly because they have yet to show that they were worth it.

The Intelligence industry is meant to be the eyes and ears of a country. When it turns inwards, and begins acting like the enemy, then it must be treated like the enemy. Cut it off, burnt it down, and build something clean when we can; some would argue that this will leave us vulnerable, for a time; well, we're already vulnerable, and the people attacking us are not so kind as to be speaking with a foreign accent. A gentle reminder will not work here -> they've already gone over the deep-end, and will not stop until some horrific travesty claims them (and too many innocents in the process).

Most importantly, the cost, both economically and civilly, of these operations is outstanding. We are a nation filled with people who, let's be honest, wish to be wealthier, in all aspects (fiscally, technologically, culturally, spiritually) than they already are; having the spooks running vague intercepts across the entire country, carte blanche, is not the way to promote that end.

We have all of these data centers, "clouds," being the operative term, that companies and government (I imagine) have spent a bundle on to build, with the goal of getting a decent return on their investment; we can't realize that return because foreign governments / companies do not trust that we won't go rifling their stuff for shits and giggles, ergo, they do not use these services. The US used to bank on the idea that it was the one country that really cared about those silly freedoms like free speech, and in return, even though its track record was not perfect, it received a lot of business. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and business is failing en mass.

The US can have Soviet-style control of the interior...or it can be wealthy. Not both.

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Unhappy

Re: I Am Sad

"The Intelligence industry"

Note that word "industry

Because that's what it is.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called it "The Prison Business."

But of course that was in godless un American Soviet Russia.

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Stop

Re: I Am Sad

I am sad that you ever thought this way. I had thought this level of naivety predated me. That people don't expect this level of spying is remarkable because they demand it. It is, I suppose, an ironic loop.

The US has more than 15 spy agencies of which the NSA is one. The NSA's whole purpose is to spy on people in America. To announce at this late date that they are doing that and freak out about it is quite naive. That is what they are FOR.

Whether this is needful is a different question. I think yes.

Regardless there has always been and always will be an organization devoted to extracting all possible hints of threat out of the public discourse. And there should be.

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Re: I Am Sad

Extracting all possible hints of threat out of the public discourse? Are you mad?

What is public discourse? A statement on Al-Jazera, a conversation in a coffee shop, a paper by a student, your email, your phone calls, conversations in your home? Where does it stop?

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Re: I Am Sad

One of the politicians will have to take a stand

Rand Paul already has, but it's going to take a hell of a lot more than one. I shot off emails to all my Congressmen yesterday demanding that they take a stand against this, but (unsurprisingly) I haven't heard a peep out of any of them on the subject.

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Facepalm

@ MIkel -- Re: I Am Sad

Mikel, you are the naive one.

Regardless there has always been and always will be an organization devoted to extracting all possible hints of threat out of the public discourse. And there should be.

Your level of naivete is demonstrated by your above quote. "All possible hints of threat" to whom? To us, the vast unwashed hordes of plebs? Were that truly to be the case, then one could conceivably buy into your assertion. But in you naivete, you failed to ask that question; you simply assumed that was so. I propose there is another answer; that being protecting against all possible hints of threats to the so-called "powers that be": The autocrats, plutocrats, and, yes, sociopaths that run our government and corporate infrastructure, and will do whatever it takes to maintain their positions. I further propose that it is more likely that PRISM and other such surveillance programs serve this latter class. Call me a tin-foil hatter if you wish, but then ask yourself this question: Would our corporo-political "leaders" be more likely to expend so much political and physical capital to protect a hoard of brownish people's asses, or their own?

If you answered that in favor of the brownish people, and did it with a straight face, you are indeed quite naive.

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Meh

Re: @ MIkel -- I Am Sad

Don't be an idiot. Racial oppression is so far out of scope for the NSA as to be laughable. The NSA is a highly effective organization and their only concern for racial tension is its use as a tool. Their purposes are 1) don't get caught and 2) identify threats to US national security. They don't care if those threats are the SLA or the IRA. They could literally not care less about black on black, black on white, or white on white violence any more than they care about your porn preference for transgender albino dwarves if that's your thing. They also know about, and don't care about, the myriad ways you cheat your employer, your business partners, your drug dealer, your "mistress" and the taxman if any of these are true. They could have a camera implanted in your head or be monitoring your XBox Kinect and unless you were plotting harm to the US you have nothing to fear from them no matter what color you are. If you were though it's their job to know no matter where in the world you are and to do the necessary to find out - even before you know, if possible.

Do I approve of the depth of their coverage? No. They've gone overboard on the "effective" thing. But these are difficult times. To call them racist though? That's just dumb.

And yes, they are reading and indexing your post and mine. Probably the draft submissions too.

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Happy

Re: @ MIkel -- I Am Sad

Edward Snowden who provided the info from NSA should get the Four Freedoms Medal/Award for:

freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

(From Franklin Delano's Roosevelt's speech to Congress January 6, 1941)

Because like Franklin D. Roosevelt said on March 4, 1933 the Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

If we should fear our goverments, those are just dictators, and we should get rid of those, everywhere in the world.

"And yes, they are reading and indexing your post and mine. Probably the draft submissions too."

So, what?

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Facepalm

Directly access

I'm sure the government don't have "direct access" to the servers. Google et. al instead have "direct access" to the government server where they drop all the requested data every day. Said server might be in Google's data center, and the NSA etc. can log into it remotely of course, but it's not *Google's* server.

Probably best if we all start using Chinese Internet services. That way again least you know you are being spied on all the time!

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Big Brother

Power corrupts

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lord Acton

Of course, I have nothing to worry about, since I've done nothing wrong... Yet what will I do, if what I did yesterday becomes "wrong" tomorrow?

Big brother icon, because, well...

Not AC, because no use...

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Joke

WTF???

That PP slide in the article... "Prism Program Cost: ~$20M per year"

A government IT project that only costs $20M per year? Shurely shome mishtake?

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Happy

Re: WTF???

That's the cost of the slideshows for the PRISM program, not the program itself.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF???

I've worked with senior executives who thought a powerpoint presentation WAS the system!

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Re: WTF???

I was running with the assumption that the $20M figure was just the NSA's direct costs, since the actual cost of data collection, etc. would be part of the operating expenditure of the collaborating private companies.

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Re: WTF???

It's the whole $20M p.a. thing that makes me think it's a hoax. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure intelligence agencies have various techniques for getting this information, but I'd be surprised if it were this direct. $20M would barely cover the coffee expenses for such a project.

Plus if it were this direct with the companies in question, someone, somewhere would have blabbed by now. Because for this to work, somewhere in the chain a network or system admin would have been suspicious by now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF???

"It's the whole $20M p.a. thing that makes me think it's a hoax"

You don't think that presentations like that for audiences like that might use a financial base unit of (say) thousands of dollars when talking about budgets? So something written as 20M is actually $20,000,000,000 ? Even that sounds a bit low.

"somewhere in the chain a network or system admin would have been suspicious by now."

And what would they do about it if they were worried about their pay packet in 3 months time? Or worried about not going to jail for not disclosing the encryption key on their encrypted records of what they found (does that apply in the US? It does in the UK). Or about not being found dead in the woods having gone for a walk? Not to mention who would publish it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WTF???

@Annihilator Friday 12:35: "It's the whole $20M p.a. thing that makes me think it's a hoax. "

Whether you think it's a hoax or not, it's now being widely reported that Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) has admitted the reports are correct. Clapper is now whinging at the media for publicising what's been (illegally?) going on without the knowledge of Joe Public (and indeed without the knowledge of the public's democratically elected representatives, who appear to have been somewhat misinformed by people like Clapper).

The $20M figure *is* still implausible, but two weeks ago most of the story would have been considered implausible by most people. Now we know it's not implausible at all.

WTF indeed.

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Re: WTF???

Those same news reports also say the actions have been cleared through Congress. Our elected representatives knew but they kept it from us. They were complicit in this whole mess and should be held responsible at the polls next time. Voting is the only tool we have to affect any change, best to use it.

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Devil

Carnivore II

Re: "no access to our servers":

The infamous "Carnivore" system operated by the FBI which got so much bad press about a few years back, was simply a "black box" network sniffer that sits on the wire behind the ISP/corporate firewall and potentially sniffs and records every packet on the wire.

No need for "access to their servers" to do that.

Now if the traffic was not decrypted until it reached those servers (increasing amount of email is now sent via SSL/TLS), then they will have to invent a new set of weasel-words to cover up that snooping architecture. ;)

Neither is there any reason why the spooks would reveal their internal "project name" to Apple or anyone else, all they are going to do is say: "Give us access to this thing here, right now." Prism schmism.

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What they don't seem to realise is

...that the more you spy on the general populous just because you can, the more you alienate them and the more likely encryption is to become routine. At that point your access to data just got orders of magnitude harder than if you'd just done the right thing all along.

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Big Brother

Re: What they don't seem to realise is

Except as here in the UK the government simply puts you in gaol until such time as you cough the decrypt key, it being illegal and contempt of court to withhold such things. So not even encryption gets you out of this. It just blows back at you. At the very least they impound your devices and just get the keys from there and again your login please or you go into chokey until you do.

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Big Brother

in the UK the government simply puts you in gaol

Yes, but they cant put everyone in gaol.

That's the whole point of democracy.

If they could, the UK would still be a monarchy.

Oh, wait! ...

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Re: in the UK the government simply puts you in gaol

>If they could, the UK would still be a monarchy

The joke being I assume as a dumb yank you still technically are. Aren't a lot of the freedoms you have not guaranteed by anything but the queen letting you have them? Don't get me wrong it doesn't matter if you have a constitution guaranteeing rights if everyone ignores them and thinks they only apply to old technology like paper letters.

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Re: in the UK the government simply puts you in gaol

">If they could, the UK would still be a monarchy

The joke being I assume as a dumb yank you still technically are. Aren't a lot of the freedoms you have not guaranteed by anything but the queen letting you have them? Don't get me wrong it doesn't matter if you have a constitution guaranteeing rights if everyone ignores them and thinks they only apply to old technology like paper letters."

Yep, we still are, though it's basically just symbolic these days: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchy_of_the_United_Kingdom

As for our freedoms, I don't know, but you are probably right. We do have a constitution and certain "human rights" granted by the EU though.

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Thumb Down

Google does not have a 'back door' for the government to access private user data

Why should they? They hand out the data by the front door. Not that they have any choice, anyway.

On a related note, will Microsoft give the NSA access to the XBox One's camera and microphone?

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Happy

Re: Google does not have a 'back door' for the government to access private user data

Govt: "Google -- give us access to all your users' data!"

Google: "Sure, glad to help. Just as soon as you hand over that check."

Gov't: "But...but...National Security!"

Google: "Get to the back of the line, you're no better than anyone else. And when you get to the front, better have a check ready."

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FAIL

is this why...?

Pres. Obama famously uses (or is that used) Blackberry? coz the NSA / FBI weren't able to snoop on his calls?

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Devil

Re: is this why...?

1. That got replaced at some point by a snoop friendly device that looks like a BB. There was a register article about it (too lazy to search at this time in the morning).

2. Even if it was BB guess who runs the servers and has the encryption keys.

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Coat

Re: is this why...?

He is easy to deal with, just stick JFK's convertible limo in sight of the Oval office windows.

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Big Brother

logo looks like an homage to the Total Information Awareness logo from a while back ...

... the pyramid with the all-seeing Eye of Sauron that apparently gave people the willies in focus groups. Now it's back but less brazen.

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Anonymous Coward

Good old Microsoft

They were the first to bend over for the NSA, and now they want to put cameras and microphones in every home. No thanks.

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Anonymous Coward

As Freddie once sang....

I want it all

I want it all

I want it all

and I want it now

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Gimp

Re: As Freddie once sang....

"I want it all

I want it all

I want it all

and I want it now"

The data fetishist creed.

"We don't know how to use it (to actually find terrorists/drug traffickers/paedopiles/criminal du jour but we wants it.

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Boffin

Re: What Bill of Rights? What amendment?

Each evening the mice come forth to nibble the sausage in our cupboard; they take so little, there is no need to tear the house apart to hunt them down. And at long last, there will be nothing left but the string from the end of the sausage. That, too, will not be worth fighting for. We Americans have grown quite comfortable with our Ministry of Peace, our Ministry of Love, our Ministry of Truth, and our Ministry of Plenty.

Rivers of blood flow. Freedoms are gained; freedoms are lost. Only history endures.

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Big Brother

With apologies to Little Steven.

"Look at that piece of paper that all those suckers signed."*

In this case the USA PATRIOT act, which most did not read.

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Cloud Computing

CLOUD COMPUTING -- (noun) a data storage technique designed to make government surveillance easier by putting the data of many organizations and people on servers located in a few places.

CHINA -- a country that sometimes spies on us.

RUSSIA -- a country that sometimes spies on us.

USA -- a country that spies on us 100% of the time.

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Anonymous Coward

If such surveillance was either essential or well controlled it could have been done honestly

1. If such surveillance was either essential or well controlled it could have been done honestly and openly with the consent of the American people.

The surveillance had to be kept secret because it was the atrocious destruction of liberty and freedom that it was and is.

2. Why have politicians from both US parties gone along with this?

My guess is due to the success of the surveillance program already in turning up material to blackmail any elected officials, judges and senior military officers who would attempt to stand in its way.

I base this guess on the previous success of J. Edgar Hoover's secret files in keeping politicians, judges and other member of the justice system off his back, allowing him to prevent the FBI admitting the Italian mafia was a criminal force in North America.

This is the thing, widespread surveillance like this is a bigger threat to politicians, government officials and journalists than any other kind of citizen.

Widespread surveillance is absolutely totally incompatible with democracy -- which is why we fought the Cold War.

I fear Russian and the USA have one thing in common, both being controlled by intelligence agencies, Russia overtly, the USA covertly.

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Re: If such surveillance was either essential or well controlled it could have been done honestly

But what happens when absolute, total surveillance becomes ESSENTIAL to survive? IOW, what happens when it's down to let Big Brother watch us or we die?

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Devil

Re: If such surveillance was either essential or well controlled it could have been done honestly

I'm guessing you mean absolute, total , secret surveillance? Because, the main thing with it being somehow essential (or everyone dies) is that we would have to know about it.

This is about how the (US) Government has decided that super secret massive spying the way to go, and screw any kind of consent. Might be possible to get a third party going in the US if they stand on a "we wont secretly spy on you" platform.

Although I guess whoever stands will have to be squeaky clean, what with all the secret spy material being used to blackmail them otherwise .For the good of the secret spy organizati..., I mean, USA of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If such surveillance was either essential or well controlled it could have been done honestly

@Charles 9

What if we forget what we are supposed to be defending in the first place? People have died in the past defending the freedoms we (used to?) have.

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