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The FBI’s PRISM program, and what it means for us.

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Google Data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The NSA obtaining metadata from Verizon is concerning. It’s tough for many to cannonball into the deep end of fear, but the news is increasingly troublesome the past few days. If the court order our NSA had against Verizon troubled you, PRISM may send you off that diving board.

PRISM is an FBI program designed to do one thing: collect data about you. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), PRISM allows the FBI to access the database of 9 major tech companies to access data about users. The chart below details who is involved, and when they joined.


What is FISA?

Enacted in 1978, FISA is a law which “prescribes procedures for requesting judicial authorization for electronic surveillance and physical search of persons engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States on behalf of a foreign power.” This may include US citizens who are suspected of espionage or terrorism.

PRISM is simply a program to carry out the groundwork FISA laid. We can point directly to it as the culprit, and it is, but it’s also just the first domino. We know the first domino is PRISM, and we know the next 9 are tech companies subject to the program’s reach. After that, it gets hazy.

Clandestine power

Like the NSA’s executive order we told you about yesterday, FISA is nothing new. This has been in effect for 35 years. For many of us, this program has been in effect and operating our whole lives.

Programs like these are not meant to see the light of day, nor should they. If the goal is to identify and defuse threats, these types of programs should never be made public. The cat-and-mouse game the FBI plays with bad guys is meant to be played out behind closed doors. The days of trenchcoats and fountain pen guns are over.

Accordingly, the FBI and all government agencies designed to identify risk have been made to change their methodology. Whereas wiretaps and stakeouts with donuts used to be how things got done, we’ve all changed how we do things. When there are entire cells of terrorists who may never actually meet, the days of following someone, physically, are over. Now, they follow bad guys digitally.

It’s also worth noting that most communication flows through the US at some point. As the chart below points out, calls and digital messages don’t always take a direct route. Your message or call may bounce all over the globe before reaching its destination. Even as it relates to foreign terrorism, this program may be able to stem the tide.


What do they want to know?

Everything. Literally. This goes much further than the NSA court order on Verizon. This encomapsses everything you do, and everywhere you do it. Have photos stored digitally? They can …read more

Via: Android Authority