Tech Giants “Knowingly” Share HUGE Amounts Of User Data With The NSA PRISM
The National Security Agency and FBI have been engaging in a highly classified program that mines data from leading U.S. internet companies, according to a bombshell report in The Washington Post Thursday night.
The program is code-named PRISM, and the Post reports that it was established in 2007. According to the report, the nine companies that “participate knowingly” in the program are Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
The NSA and FBI tap directly into the central servers of the companies, obtaining audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs that “enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time,” according to the Post.
The Obama administration defended the practice late Thursday night. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called it responsible for some of the “most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect.” He said it is subject to strict oversight and that it does not “intentionally” target any U.S. citizen.
Apple issued a denial shortly after the Post report, saying it had never heard of PRISM and that government agencies cannot access its servers without a court order.
Facebook denied providing government organizations with direct access to its servers. Microsoft and Google also issued denials.
We’ll provide an update on these contradictory claims when available.
The program was not disclosed publicly, and is only being disclosed now after a whistleblower revealed the program to the Post because of “horror” at its capabilities.
“They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” said the whistleblower, described as a career intelligence officer, in a truly harrowing quote.
The Washington Post’s report comes less than 24 hours after revelations of the NSA’s collection of data from millions of Americans’ phone records. The Obama administration and members of both parties of Congress defended that practice, which they acknowledged has been going on for seven years.
According to documents obtained by the Post, PRISM allows the NSA to tap directly into the central servers of 9 big Internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
A source told the Post that with PRISM, the NSA can “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”
To be able to do that, the NSA would need some seriously impressive “big data” tools to analyze the terabytes of messages, videos, images, and metadata streaming through.
One company that would be able to provide such tools is Silicon Valley tech firm called Palantir.
Not a lot is known about Palantir, a private company that does not say much about who it works with.
On its company website, Palantir says it offers “a suite of software applications for integrating, visualizing and analyzing the world’s information.”
On another part of its Website, buried deep it in its “DevZone” area for developers, Palantir describes on of those products as “a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir.”
Business Insider screen grab
It’s called Prism.
Here’s the full description:
“Prism is a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir. Specifically, it lets you build high-performance Data Engine based providers without writing any code. Instead, you define simple configuration files and then Palantir automatically constructs the data provider and database code for you. This ensures that all data access goes through well tested, high-performance code paths. Also, you can iterate more quickly because you can modify and reload Prism-based data providers without restarting the server.”
Can we say for sure that Palantir’s product, Prism, is the big data engine behind the NSA’s secret tool PRISM?
No, we cannot. A call into Palantir has not been returned. As secretive as Palantir is, we doubt anyone we could reach would confirm much for us, anyway.
But it would certainly be a coincidence if there were a big data NSA program was named PRISM and a Palantir product was named Prism and they were not the same.
The NSA would not be Palantir’s first spying client. It has admitted in the past that one of its clients is the CIA.
In fact, the CIA is actually an investor in Palantir through its venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel.
The government has done very well on its early stage bet, by the way.
Just nine years old, we’re told Palantir is already worth $5 billion on private markets.