back to article Silicon Valley slurped millions of NSA cash for PRISM participation

New documents from Edward Snowden published in The Guardian have shown for the first time the financial relationship between the NSA and some of the largest names in the tech business over the PRISM data-collection scheme. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook are all named in a document, dated December 2012, relating to the …


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  1. Vociferous

    Recent outages.

    > "Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook"...

    I'm guessing Amazon and Apple were on the take as well. If so the last week's string of inexplicable outages would be pretty explicable after all, and caused by corporate ass-covering as they rip out NSA's gear.

    I guess I owe Snowden an apology, seems his leak DID achieve something after all, even though almost none of it was truly new.

    What an interesting week this has been.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so they're selling us out then.

    1. Don Jefe

      That was already kind of assumed. Even if fulfilling a court order, the companies involved are constitutionally guaranteed remuneration for any activities related to their fulfillment. I'm sure they charged as much as they could. Kind of funny how that part of the constitution didn't get ignored.

      There have been several interesting discussions on this site about how the companies involved have accounted for all these funds. I'd still like to know more about that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        follow the money?

        "There have been several interesting discussions on this site about how the companies involved have accounted for all these funds. I'd still like to know more about that."

        Have there? I must have missed them (not hard, really, given the size of the general discussion). Pointers welcome.

        I do recall that the early PRISM slides were notable for alleging that the cost of the program was riduculously small, a few millions a year or something utterly ridiculous like that. I do remember a little bit of discssion about that.

        Quick question: why does the Government money involved have to pass to the *companies involved* (where it would indeed potentially become visible). It may suffice to get decent quantities of money to the *individuals* involved, be they CEO level or technician level or somewhere in between. Mind you at technician level the "do this or lose your job" style of motivation is usually considered sufficient these days.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: follow the money?

          Maybe that's really why Ballmer is leaving MS. He knows he's about to get caught with his hand in the jar. I'm kidding.

          It hasn't come back up much since the ridiculously tiny PRISM sum in the slides. But even with that small sum you're talking about several people per organization that would have to either be paid off, tightly controlled or maybe even NSA agents working for the companies. I suppose they could be paid off in company stock, purchased by the NSA then magicked into holdings of those involved. It's easy for employees to justify having shares of the company they work for.

          It sounds rather tin-foil-hatish, but putting agents on the staff with the preconditions that they work autonomously from everyone else really wouldn't be too difficult. That tactic already has form with the AT&T leaks from a few years back. They probably wouldn't have been caught then if they hadnt basically labeled the room "Super Secret Spy Stuff Closet". The less structured environments of the companies known to be involved would make it a lot easier than an old guard company like AT&T.

          The logistics of all of the money are so potentially convoluted it makes it impossible to even guess realistically on how they've been hiding it. I suppose that's why they are intelligence agencies though, they aren't supposed to get caught spying. You have to assume they're good at it.

          1. Tom 35 Silver badge

            Re: follow the money?

            Maybe that's who bought all the Windows 8 licences...

            Accounts shows a bit of paper traded for a pile of cash. MS get to say they sold lots of Windows 8, NSA get access to skype and hotmail.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Well usually these companies have a department that deals with regulatory compliance. They deal with all the court orders, DMCA takedown notices, and requests from law enforcement, which would include everything local sheriff departments all the way up to the NSA. Ebay gets a lot of requests for information from the tax authorities. I would imagine the others do to a lesser extent, certainly in respect of the stuff they sell in their app and media stores. Any money they receive from NSA or anyone else would be allocated to that department's budget.

    2. mike acker

      how long havn't you know that?

  3. Don Jefe

    Special Source

    The opposite of open source...

    I'm also not clear on what the domain certificate bit means. Can anyone point me in a direction so I can figure out what they're talking about?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We did the governments dirty work and said nothing.

    We made millions doing it.

    But we were forced to because of the FISA court orders. We're innocent really.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      "We're innocent really"

      Perhaps not innocent but I think it's fair to say that duress was a strong motivating factor. When someone has a gun to your head and promises things will turn 'well nasty' should you refuse or reveal what you are being forced into it is hard to stand up to that.

      What we really need to know to pass judgement is how obliging these companies were and who resisted as best they could.

  5. M Gale

    This is hardly news.

    However, it is about time that more than a few minority voices on (ironically) Youtube spoke up against it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      It's news when it's news. Not earlier.

      Otherwise it's "out there", "fringe", "tinfoil hat" or "Paultardism".

    2. dogged

      The irony being that Google are flat-out lying through their collective arse about it?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    I said it before

    Government surveillance is simply another profit center for Silicon Valley (and Redmond, WA).

  7. Pseu Donyme

    Worth noting?

    The companies no longer deny any knowledge of PRISM (which - I seem to recall - was their initial position).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worth noting?

      Well spotted. The next story to drop is that they were "forced" to do it. "Being forced to make a profit by abusing the trust of their users" appears a more accurate description.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    In any other circumstance

    This would be viewed as serious organised crime at the highest levels and would be the subject of a Government appointed task force to stamp it out and to bring the perpetra(i)tors to justice.

    As it is I don't hear any real outcry from politicos from either side of the Atlantic really strongly objecting to all of this as they probably all agree with the principal of knowing exactly what the peasants are up to!

    I got involved in politics as a party member in the early '70s, what I saw then made me despise most politicians at every level, 40 years on nothing has changed.

    Is the money paid for snooping taxable and how is it accounted for in the books?

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    Why shouldn't they charge?

    If the government is forcing companies to spy on their customers, I see nothing wrong in making the buggers pay through the nose for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why shouldn't they charge?

      I don't disagree with the sentiment on its face, but it should be noted "the buggers" paying through the nose for it are the US taxpayers.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Why shouldn't they charge?

      Surely it's the patriotic duty of true Americans like Zuckerberg, Bezos and Larry&Mo to protect America and their customers from terrorists ?

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Accepted compenation, not payment."

    Right, so no actual profit violating all our users privacy and handing over the data to the NSA.

    What do you want? A f**king cookie?

  11. i like crisps
    Big Brother

    WAR IS GOOD!!!!!

    It looks as though ' Internet America ' has finally become part of the Industrial Military Complex, although

    when it emerged that the Bosses at Google ( CENSOR not SEARCH ENGINE ) were parking up their private jets at a military Air Force base it did kind of ring alarm bells at the time.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: WAR IS GOOD!!!!!

      It's okay as long as a honestly riveted flying saucer is not parked alongside.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: WAR IS GOOD!!!!!

      It is arguable that the Internet never stopped being a Department of Defense program. They just conned the rest of the world to pay for scaling it up.

    3. Roo

      Re: WAR IS GOOD!!!!!

      "It looks as though ' Internet America ' has finally become part of the Industrial Military Complex, although"

      The Internet was born an bred by the "Military Industrial Complex", except they called it ARPANET way back when...

    4. pierce

      Re: WAR IS GOOD!!!!!

      actually, it never was Air Force. Originally Moffett Field was US Army Air Corp in the 30s, in 1942 it became a Naval Air Station, its now a Moffett Federal Air Field', used by joint civilian-military. NASA Ames Research Center is colocated there, which also dates back to the 1930s as a aeronautical laboratory.

  12. Nick Kew Silver badge

    So tell us ...

    Does El Reg get remunerated more for NSA/GCHQ access to commentard information, or for ever-more-aggressive HP adverts?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: So tell us ...

      El Reg only provides commentard information to government agencies in compliance with the law. El Reg does not provide any agency with blanket access to systems or information outside that mandated by applicable court order. El Reg is prohibited by the courts from informing you of any court ordered requests made for access to your data.

      Individual advertisements on El Reg are determined by computer algorithms based and are based on analysis of your web browsing preferences and are delivered though a third party delivery network. El Res has no control over advertisements presents you.

      If you would prefer not to receive advertisements from our partners and other members of the delivery network you have the right to destroy the hard disk in your computer and mobile devices. Destroying your hard disks will also destroy any and all copies and backups of your information even on other devices.

  13. Schultz

    The Dilemma:

    "We could have a more informed discussion of these issues if providers could share additional information..."

    But until they know what remains in the Snowden files, they cannot tell how much they should (be allowed to) reveal. Wouldn't want to endanger the public by revealing more than absolutely necessary, would you?

    So beautiful to see them squirm. Can they get reimbursed for lost business once the German government stops buying MS Windows?

  14. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The Onion put it nicely

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