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US Mining Data Directly From 9 Silicon Valley Companies 404

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-book dept.
Rick Zeman writes "Hot on the heels of Verizon's massive data dump to NSA comes news of 'PRISM' where The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time. This program, established in 2007, includes major companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook...and more."
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US Mining Data Directly From 9 Silicon Valley Companies

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  • by versiondub (694793) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:14PM (#43931411) Homepage
    is anyone really that surprised by this, though?
    • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:28PM (#43931507)

      There are some surprising aspects of it.

      An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year.

      The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

      Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

      • by buswolley (591500) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:02PM (#43931727) Journal
        I have been pretty sure for a while now that a good portion of cookie based data collection is sold as a product to the US government, but also other governments. Hell, some companies may just be fronts for surveillance activities.
        • by buswolley (591500) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:03PM (#43931737) Journal
          BTW, its not about being surprised. Its about taking the moment of outrage and national attention and trying to effect change.
          • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:44PM (#43932015) Homepage

            If it is true that Google, for example, is unaware of PRISM, then an appropriate response from Google would be the rapid development and deployment of an EASY TO USE, MULTIPLATFORM browser add on to enable its users to CONVENIENTLY send and receive pgp-encrypted gmail that prevents plaintext from ever reaching Google's servers.

            Encrypted mail is a problem of convenience, not technology. Google has the resources to provide the necessary convenience to a large enough user base that encrypted email could become an expectation.

            I hope one of the major companies is sufficiently principles and sufficiently independent of the United States government (and its academic/corporate/lobbyist friends) that it is willing to do this.

            • by tirefire (724526) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:54PM (#43932427)

              to CONVENIENTLY send and receive pgp-encrypted gmail that prevents plaintext from ever reaching Google's servers.

              I thought Gmail was free because Google's robots scanned the contents of your emails to determine what advertisements to display next to your inbox. If Google can't read your email, they could only show users random advertisements, or maybe ask them to complete some questionnaire to tick off their interests.

              Either way, I think Google makes less money if they can't read people's Gmail messages, so I doubt we'll see it.

              • Google could charge a monthly fee for the service, or a "don't be evil" company could start a competitive service and try to eat Google's afternoon snack. The interesting thing about the computer industry has always been how rapidly product loyalties shift.

                Keep in mind that you'll get a better group of people choosing to use an encrypted service than those choosing to leave their laundry out for others to observe at will, so you could probably charge a premium if you decided to sell them non-targeted advert

            • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:01PM (#43932487)

              Google uses opportunistic TLS encryption of SMTP.

              Received: from mail-ie0-f177.google.com (mail-ie0-f177.google.com [209.85.223.177])
                              by mind.your.own.business (8.14.5/8.14.5) with ESMTP id XXXXXXXXX
                              (version=TLSv1/SSLv3 cipher=RC4-SHA bits=128 verify=FAIL)
                              for ; Wed, 5 Jun 2013 17:39:11 -0700 (PDT)

              You'll notice that verification failed, and that's because you don't need to purchase a TLS certificate for SMTP. Most mail exchangers, including Google's, don't require verification.

              Of course, if you're using GMail then you really have no right to be outraged, _especially_ if you're a geek. Google tells you up front that they read your e-mail, so why wouldn't you expect that they also hand over stuff to NSA?

              I've been running my own mail, web, and Jabber servers for over a decade. Yes, it takes time and money. But my freedom is worth the price.

              Once the prices come down on those "microcloud" ARM servers, I'd like to purchase a bunch of those and lease them out on-the-cheap as a side business. And I'd point a 24/7 camera at those bad boys. That way people can lease real hardware, so that if the government wants to spy on you, they actually have to serve a warrant. If the camera ever goes out, you know something happened. Sort of like some other ISP once did by regularly posting a "no warrant" notice; if a posting was missed then you no a warrant was issued.

            • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @10:33PM (#43932647) Homepage

              Encrypted mail is a problem of convenience, not technology.

              That's only partially true -- there's no way to encrypt or hide the recipient of the email. Do you want the government to know if you're talking to the "wrong" people?

              • Yes, there is. Tor, and before it the three generations of remailers (simple, cypherpunk and mixmaster).

        • by Dahamma (304068) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:11PM (#43931785)

          a good portion of cookie based data collection is sold as a product to the US government

          Oh great, now they know about my secret snacking habits?

        • by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:13PM (#43931807)

          Hell, some companies may just be fronts for surveillance activities.

          Oh, that is a given.

          China also has more than 3,000 front companies in the U.S. “for the sole purpose of acquiring ... technology [bloomberg.com]

          It is probably not fair for the Chinese to get all the action.

        • by justthinkit (954982) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:34PM (#43931943) Homepage Journal
          Then this would be the real reason why "Do not track" is being universally ignored.
          • by game kid (805301) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:42PM (#43932001) Homepage

            ...or why Google dropped XMPP support, re-added it, and pretty much dropped it again. Such federation would get in the way of Governmental Monitoring And Intelligence Gathering For Liberty And Freedom And Also Liberty, apparently.

            • by Alef (605149) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:04AM (#43933725)

              ...both of which could of course also be explained perfectly without the need to complicate it with a large-scale conspiracy.

              Google is very much a company of engineers, and from an idealistic engineering perspective, an open and federated architecture like XMPP is nice. But from a business perspective, and with the market penetration and data mining business model that Google has, it can easily be argued that it is not in their interest to open up their platforms like that. That notwithstanding, I suspect the explanation could simply be that it became an unnecessary restraint to the way they wanted to develop their services -- a cost with unclear benefits.

              The same goes for "do not track" -- there may be financial benefits in tracking your users, so why not do it if you can? It's what to be expected.

              Of course the intelligence agencies of developed countries (to which I include China) want to monitor as much as they can, and they probably are to a large extent, but that doesn't mean everything that happens in this world is centred around that.

      • by White Flame (1074973) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:11PM (#43931787)

        That's not all that surprising. The scope and size of data is simply too overwhelming even for the NSA, if they were to collect absolutely everything. These technical limitations are the only thing keeping some semblance of practical privacy... for now.

        • by Genda (560240) <mariet AT got DOT net> on Friday June 07, 2013 @01:34AM (#43933323) Journal

          And just for sh!tz and Googles, how many generations of hardware and/or software away before deep data tools will be able to provide the Government with anything they want to know about anyone they want to know it? If they can now identify possible terrorists by emails and phone calls today, how long before they can spank you for bringing pencil erasers home from work or passing gas in a crowded elevator?

          I used to be slightly creeped out by by folks who were always suggesting the government was out to get us and that people's fillings were being bugged. Arriving at the day when the apparently paranoid and delusional have been vindicated is clearly not a happy thing. There's no extra room for Washington D.C. in my colon. I respectfully request they evacuate my bowel the next time I do the same.

          • by Sique (173459)
            There is a small problem with this idea though - large numbers.

            Lets say you want to build a Bayesian filter for email scanning. It works fine for single words, if you want to check for spam or other quite easily determinable categories. If you want to scan for word combinations of two words, your filter will already have 100,000 times 100,000 fields, and if you want to scan for short sentences up to 20 words, your filter has to provide 100,000 to the power of 20 fields, or around 10^100.

            And this is just

      • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:54PM (#43932059)

        but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

        Rules can be changed at will as soon as the eye of public scrutiny decided to overlook their abuse due to "a promise that under current policy", the data won't be used to make dragnet

      • by Vintermann (400722) on Friday June 07, 2013 @02:03AM (#43933423) Homepage

        under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

        You have only their word for it, and they've made it abundantly clear that they will lie to you "for your own good".

      • by Nexion (1064)

        Problem is, they aren't going after foreigners anymore. They've humped that corpse dry. The new excuse for your tattered civil liberties comes from farming some home grown "terrorists". So they are looking at YOU!

        • by Phrogman (80473) on Friday June 07, 2013 @07:15AM (#43934679) Homepage

          Well there haven't been enough foreign generated terrorist attacks on the US to use them as a justification for all this paranoia and rape of personal privacy. Therefore they have to concentrate on home grown terrorists - encouraging them where necessary to cross the line - to justify it all.
          At the moment the only thing offering us any privacy seems to be the limits placed by technology on maintaining the data and analyzing/searching it. The 1m sq foot data center in Utah and the 600k sq foot one in Maryland would seem to be the next step in resolving the issue of handling the volume.
          The thing that gets me is all these stories about the agreement with Verizon that leaked. That agreement is pretty much useless unless all the other cellphone and Internet providers have also made the same agreement, otherwise what happens with a Verizon customer calls a Bell customer? The NSA only gets half the data? I can't see them as able to accept that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:28PM (#43931509)

      is anyone really that surprised by this, though?

      Agreed,

      Anyone who didn't see this coming 12 years ago had their head in the sand or hasn't read their history.

      • If you only saw this coming 12 years ago you had your head in the sand or haven't read history.

        People have been saying this has been happening for years but the computational resources didn't allow the current scale until recently. Every incident where the government could expand it power and take away rights it took full advantage. Small incidents small ambiguous rights thaken that could be later expanded upon because of vague laws, big incidents here comes the PATRIOT ACT. We do have a tyrannical govern
    • by JWSmythe (446288)

          I'm only surprised that I don't get frequent visits from O2STK.

          At least I'm sure they're entertained by my phone calls, emails, and risque pictures.

    • Certainly not the NSA or the FBI, they saw it coming.
  • Money quote... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rick Zeman (15628) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:17PM (#43931425)

    ....from last paragraph:

    Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

    • by hutsell (1228828) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:32PM (#43931919) Homepage

      ....from last paragraph:

      Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

      Temporarily putting aside any discussion about cynicism or idealism and how one feels about the effectiveness of petitions [aclu.org], if you decide to sign into the preceding petition (and unconcerned about the negative aspects of possibly being added to a "watch list") you'll be given the ability to (/.ing it, in a sense) by resubmitting a formatted response in 3 different ways.

      Via Twitter:

      Using the Patriot Act, the govt has been secretly tracking the calls of every #Verizon Business customer.Act now: http://bit.ly/13IoqhD [bit.ly] #NSA

      Facebook:

      Using the Patriot Act, the government has been secretly tracking the calls of millions of Americans. Yes, really. Act now.

      and your Email:

      A leaked court document obtained by The Guardian, and since reported on by numerous news outlets, has exposed the government spying on Americans. Using the Patriot Act, the U.S. government has been secretly tracking the calls of every Verizon Business Network Services customer – whom they talked to, from where, and for how long – for the past 41 days.

      It's time to get angry. Be part of a strong public outcry against this program by signing the petition immediately and letting your friends know what's happening in this country. https://www.aclu.org/secure/stop-massive-spying-program?Ms=taf_acluaction_NSA_130606 [aclu.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:20PM (#43931443)

    The Internet needs to be policed. There are bad men and evildoers actively plotting to do us harm. These nefarious activities now are increasingly being planned and coordinated using the Internet. I don't think this is so bad that the authorities are mining and searching and seeking out these dastardly terrorists.

    My life and my family's lives are more important than whatever privacy I had on these sites. I know Apple, Google, Facebook have the data anyway, so I see know harm on giving this up so that I feel safer. Just my two cents, I know its not the majority viewpoint in this current uproar.

    • by SolarCanine (892620) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:24PM (#43931481) Journal

      My life and my family's lives are more important than whatever privacy I had on these sites.

      ...says the anonymous coward? Am I missing some Soviet Russia joke here?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That AC is severely lacking in foresight, this AC prefers the words of General John Stark that so well expressed the view of many: "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

      • by dyfet (154716) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:10PM (#43931779) Homepage

        My life and my family's lives are more important than whatever privacy I had on these sites.

        ...says the anonymous coward? Am I missing some Soviet Russia joke here?

        Just to please you... In NSA America social networks join you!

    • by brucek2 (208676) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:38PM (#43931577)

      Its a good thing your ancestors had a little more guts and a lot more principal. They were willing to die, if necessary, first to free America from being ruled by Kings and then to fight other countries who wished to force their ideologies onto the rest of the world.

      Meanwhile, all that most of us from this generation had to do was not screw it up. Which it looks like we are. Hopefully these disclosures will remind everyone that the reason we have a national security apparatus is to protect our liberty.

      • by howardd21 (1001567) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:02PM (#43932089) Homepage

        Hopefully these disclosures will remind everyone that the reason we have a national security apparatus is to protect our liberty.

        Best comment here...by far.

      • So many questionable assumptions in your post... If you are referring to US American history around the time of the American Revolution, quite a bit of the Colonial population fled to Canada to remain under the rule of the British Crown (as "Loyalists"). Canada got rid of slavery about 40 years sooner than the USA, never had a terrible Civil War, treat their indigenous people better, and now have universal health care. In many ways, the British were more socially advanced than the rough colonists. See also:

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:48PM (#43931647)

      The Internet needs to be policed. There are bad men and evildoers actively plotting to do us harm. These nefarious activities now are increasingly being planned and coordinated using the Internet. I don't think this is so bad that the authorities are mining and searching and seeking out these dastardly terrorists.

      Are you sure you're ok with the US Government scrutinizing your private life?

      Right now there are so many laws and regulations in the USA that not even the US Government can tell you how many there are (criminal law alone is 23,000 pages across 50 volumes, and that doesn't include thousands of federal regulations that you're expected to abide by). Every day you probably break dozens of laws without knowing it.

      How will you feel if the government starts mining your data and issuing violations automatically: "Citizen: on June 3, 2013 you told your aunt that you fixed your backyard fence. We found no record of a proper building permit, therefore you must tear down your fence and build it again" "Citizen: On September 9, 2013 your daughter said she planted a dandelion in front of your house. That plant has been determined to be a noxious weed, we will be sending a drone to eradicate your front yard". "Citizen: In Jan 10th, 2003 you had lunch with a Tea Party leader. The Tea Party has been determined to be a terrorist organization. Come quietly and we'll go easy on your family".

      Even if you trust the current administration with the data, do you trust all future administrations since the data will likely be retained beyond your lifetime? How would you feel if they selling profiles about yourself to private corporations? (first to the credit rating agencies, then maybe to insurance companies, then to anyone that wants to buy a profile on you).

      My life and my family's lives are more important than whatever privacy I had on these sites. I know Apple, Google, Facebook have the data anyway, so I see know harm on giving this up so that I feel safer. Just my two cents, I know its not the majority viewpoint in this current uproar.

      Why do you assume that you have to give up all privacy to ensure the safety of your family? Do you think terrorism is something new that can only be stopped by scrutinizing the personal lives of everyone?

      If you're so open with your privacy, why post as Anonymous Coward? Why not post your Facebook Profile, LinkedIn Profile, Twitter name, etc here for us all to see? What are you trying to hide?

      • by buswolley (591500) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:14PM (#43931809) Journal
        There are so many laws, one breaks one or two everyday without realization. With so many laws there can be no equality before the law, because law enforcement can arbitrarily select whether it will enforce a law or not on whomever it pleases.
    • by White Flame (1074973) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:21PM (#43931853)

      Forget the "bad guys" for a second. Your entire life and those of your family and friends is being monitored in detail regarding daily activities to attempt to incriminate you for being a child pornographer or terrorist. Any little off-color humor, flippant statements, random private discussions, outbursts, travel plans, purchasing decisions, etc, all can contribute to increasing that terrorist/child porn indicator for your personal life, regardless of your actual innocence, with no human judgment involved.

      This is complete insanity, and it is the implicit condemnation of every single US citizen as being a terrorism suspect. You are complicit in subjecting yourself as a suspected terrorist, instead of demanding to live your life as a regular, upstanding citizen with no charges held against you.

      I know Apple, Google, Facebook have the data anyway, so I see know harm on giving this up so that I feel safer.

      Sure, you "feel" safer. But you are not safer. You are a suspect now, and are more at risk of having your life destroyed by the authorities, regardless of innocence, than before.

  • Big Brother for nothing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:23PM (#43931469)
    Tinfoil hat brigade says "we did tell you so"
  • Bye bye Dropbox? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scottbomb (1290580) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:24PM (#43931479) Journal

    From TFA:

    Dropbox, the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

    I'm very dependent on Dropbox but I just might have to cancel it. As I type this, I'm already cancelling GoogleDrive, and MS SkyDrive.

  • Is there any chance that this and the Verizon metadata will cause real outrage, by which I mean by enough citizens to have some political effect? I honestly don't know, but at least some part of me hopes it will. Please discuss. I know much of the "discussion" will be the usual rants, but some folks might add real thought or insight.
    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:45PM (#43931629) Homepage

      Is there any chance that this and the Verizon metadata will cause real outrage, by which I mean by enough citizens to have some political effect?

      If you remember aaaalll the way back to 2005, a whistleblower at AT&T in San Francisco made public the NSA's secret wiretapping program. Despite ongoing lawsuits brought on by the EFF, it doesn't seem like the majority of the public really cared at all.

      Seems like most people simply don't give a shit about their rights. The government could announce a plan to cut every man's dick off, and few would complain. Well, some cranky newspaper columnists might complain about the "hippie protesters," but that's it.

  • by GrahamCox (741991) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:28PM (#43931513) Homepage
    If this doesn't make you angry, upset and outraged, what will? Most of you will have relatives that fought and died to fight the evil of fascism in the Second World War. What was that all about, if you are just allowing the same thing on your own doorstep by stealth? Don't tell me about Godwin's Law, that's just a way to stifle debate. Call out this fascism for what it is. This is beyond the wildest dreams of the STASI or Stalin, because they didn't have the technology. The NSA and the CIA are rogue states within the state, they are beyond control and are not acting for you, or in your best interests. This should upset you. If there are not huge, mass protests on the streets of your state capitols all over the nation in the coming weeks, you should be ashamed of yourselves. The Orwellian state is not inevitable, but it takes actual action to stop this. Cynical tut-tutting will not do. This has to be shut down now, and proper protest is what it's going to take. Over to you.
    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      This is beyond the wildest dreams of the STASI [...]

      Indeed. And for those who don't have a clear image of what their lives already look like (in terms of privacy) when they post their private stuff in "the cloud", I highly recommend the movie Das Leben der Anderen [imdb.com].

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:56PM (#43931691)

      If this doesn't make you angry, upset and outraged, what will? Most of you will have relatives that fought and died to fight the evil of fascism in the Second World War.

      An excellent point. It almost struck me as wrapping yourself in the flag at first, but really it's not. "Fought and died for our freedoms" is something I heard often, starting in grade school. I hope it's not complete bull. We could really use some WWII and other vets saying "this is not what I fought for".

      The most effective thing I read back when an anti-flag burning amendment was the hot topic, was a letter in a local paper from a WWII vet. He had serious creds - airborne and did 3 major jumps, including D-Day. If he didn't risk his neck for this country I don't know who did. His statement was very simple. "I didn't fight for the flag, I fought for what it stands for".

    • by kheldan (1460303)

      This has to be shut down now, and proper protest is what it's going to take.

      Good luck getting enough people to listen. They're mostly fat, lazy sheep now, which is just what the NSA, CIA, and who knows who else wanted them to be: easily controlled, and mollified by bread a circuses.

    • The NSA and the CIA are rogue states within the state

      What reason is there to believe that? Absent evidence to the contrary, I believe this is under the control of our elected officials. Put the blame where it belongs.

      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        I believe this is under the control of [those who pull the strings of] our elected officials.

        FTFY

        Strat

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993)

      Give me some evidence the CIA or the NSA are attempting to control anything about internal American politics, control people's lives, the outcomes of political processes or even innocent individuals lives or even anything like business outcomes. Because without that you have no case that they are a nefarious force in our lives. They are not breaking any law-. If you don't like it, repeal the Patriot Act.

      An ability to hypothetically do evil thing X is NOT NOT NOT the same as the desire to. They COULD nuke u

      • Give me some evidence the CIA or the NSA are attempting to control anything about internal American politics, control people's lives, the outcomes of political processes or even innocent individuals lives or even anything like business outcomes. Because without that you have no case that they are a nefarious force in our lives.

        Wow. Are you at all familiar with the U.S. Constitution, the philosophy behind it, or the centuries of history of abusive practices that it was designed to prevent? Even if you could prove that the things you list weren't happening, it would still be wrong. The Constitution was written by people who understand that if government powers can be abused, they will be abused. Those people were realists, not cynics. They based the limits on government in the Constitution not on some pie-in-the-sky theories, but o

      • Because everything is classified, when the system is inevitably used to achieve political ends, you most likely won't even realise it's happened. Your position is like someone in 2001 saying "but requiring banks to verify their customers identity isn't being used to manipulate politics, it'll just be used to fight the terrorists!" and then some years later WikiLeaks gets cut off. It is only possible because of the infrastructure laid down for other reasons. In that case the smackdown was clearly visible, bu

      • People do not want to do the Worst Case Scenario Evil things you are imagining. If that changes, then that's something to deal with. History is FILLED with people who have all kinds of power to do evil that they never avail themselves of.

        I think you need to re-read this statement and turn it around 180 degrees. The vast, vast majority of people in the world, including US Citizens, COULD be terrorists, but they choose not to. The issue is that our government is assuming all of us COULD be guilty, and sur

    • If this doesn't make you angry, upset and outraged, what will?

      I can't get angry anymore.

      I've spent the last 12 years watching the western world, and my own country in particular, fall apart in slow motion. Everything I thought I knew about the politics and the rule of law has been been invalidated three times over to the point where I can't make beleive anymore.

      How can I be angry at an outcome which I knew was inevitable? And outcome produced by a system that is inherently dysfunctional? I may as well become angry at a bird for eating a worm as become angry at the US government for doing what everyone saw coming since 2001. What happens when a government is given arbitrary powers, an eternal enemy, and a compliant judiciary and media? We all know what happens. The government being in the west does not make it different and anyone who ever thought so (I include myself in this) was a fool.

      I used to think that eventually, the political class would stoop so low they would hit rock bottom, and the resulting public outrage would sweep them away. I no longer see a logical rock bottom, apart from a return to hunter-gatherer status. I see a slow collapse of the west in general, and the US in particular, along the lines of the Soviet Union, which spent 80 years dying.

      In 100 years time, things may be different. But don't expect anger or change in the next 20. Expect decline.

    • Sorry to dissappoint you, but in all totalitarian states (Nazi Germany, Soviet Union and its sattelite communist states etc.) majority didn't care. I remember the '80s in communist Poland, during the Martial Law period. Most people no longer cared. Independent TV broadcasts, which were overlayed on the official TV channel, were despised, as they "deprived people of their sitcoms". Most people just wanted to be left alone. "We have basic food and TV, why bother?" Underground dissidents were considered "troub

  • Or not (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ToastedRhino (2015614) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:31PM (#43931539)

    Apple, Google, and Facebook [allthingsd.com] have all denied involvement in this. While this does not entirely preclude their involvement, these three companies, much like the government, tend to keep their mouths shut when they're caught with their pants down. Their denial, therefore, should carry at least some weight.

    • Re:Or not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:04PM (#43931747)

      Parse their words. They are denying a very pointed question that wasn't asked. They are all saying, "We don't allow the government direct access to our servers"

      This isn't the denial you think it is.

      • by Rick Zeman (15628)

        Parse their words. They are denying a very pointed question that wasn't asked. They are all saying, "We don't allow the government direct access to our servers"

        This isn't the denial you think it is.

        Bingo. That's like the Chinese saying they don't indulge in hacking...but of course their definition bears no resemblance to anyone else's.

    • Aren't they still legally under a gag order even if it has been disclosed? The FISA letters don't say "keep quiet about this unless it is already public." They say "keep quiet about this period."

    • Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Dropbox are now all denying providing direct access to PRISM surveillance program.

      Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling flatly adding, "We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order."

      Google: "From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'back door."

      Microsoft: "We provide customer data on

  • Sounds familiar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:34PM (#43931555)
    Suddenly, I don't feel like the FBI agent from this slashdot article [slashdot.org] was just exaggerating claims to drum up interest for in a book he wanted to release....
  • also relevant (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:35PM (#43931565) Journal
    Now reports that it's not just Verizon, [wsj.com] AT&T, Sprint, ISPs, and credit card companies are involved as well. Harry Reid said, "Everyone should just calm down and understand this isn't anything that is brand new,'' which I'm sure makes everyone feel better.

    Diane Feinstein is ok with the program because she personally gets to approve it, as part of her committee position. Remember Obama voted for this before he ever got elected president, so if any of this surprises anyone, they are naive.
  • Free Market Risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:41PM (#43931605)

    This data poses a significant risk to a free market economy reliant on technology. Business is no longer demarcated from personal life, so spying on people means spying on business.

    Would you start a new business if the government had access to all it's communications? Would you trust them not to share that information with others, or exploit it for their own benefit?

    Unless there's checks and balances, like the recently neutered STOCK Act, there will be temptation to exploit this data for unimaginable gain.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:45PM (#43931625)
    From the presentation cited in FTA:

    NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

    But are those reports anything useful? Data is cheap, especially these days. Finding useful information is as difficult as ever, perhaps more so because of the flood of data. It wasn't a lack of data that kept 9/11 from being prevented, it was the failure of FBI headquarters to listen to their own field offices.

    My prediction is that, even though these programs are now being widely reported on, there will be crickets chirping after it's asked what useful information they have obtained. I won't believe it's because that information is sensitive, as government never fails to crow about the wonderful things they've done.

    Just to make my position clear, I don't think these programs are justifiable no matter what useful information is collected. However, a failure to collect useful information adds insult to injury, and renders moot any debate about whether this is an acceptable tradeoff.

  • Overwhelming (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro.gmail@com> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @07:58PM (#43931701) Homepage Journal

    You know, I (and everyone else) should be outraged at what is not only an invasion of privacy (citizens or not), but also a use of taxpayer money.

    And, yet, all I can do is sigh. PRISM, Verizon, NSA, TSA, IRS, HLS, I just find it all overwhelming and disheartening. Sure, I could e-mail/call/mail my congressman or representative, but the cynicism I've gained over this past decade of political bullshit just tells me that my Congressman is already well aware of whatever is happening and is quite happy with the situation, no matter their party. (I see lots of scrutiny from the GOP, but not a single bill from the "we've voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times" House trying to rein in the President's actions or the actions of the various 3-letter organizations.) I'll do research every time I go to vote but I know that I'm in the minority that does so, while the voting population at large will blindly follow that D or R regardless of the candidates' viability, platforms, or intelligence, so it all seems for naught. I encourage my relatives to vote third party, but none of them heed my pleas to actually research who they vote for. (I have no circle of friends in which to do the same.) For all the abuse and impropriety of this, I just can't see a way to affect change.

    I'm not even mad about this, though I should be. I'm just depressed. Circus and bread, indeed.

    (Actually, if I adjust my tin-foil hat slightly, I wonder if all of this isn't coming out at the same time to be just that: overwhelming, numbing the average American, so that they just give up and don't raise hell about it.)

    • by TheSync (5291)

      You could vote Libertarian Party...

      The Libertarian Party rejects President Bush's claims that the "Protect America Act" needs to be made permanent, citing that the bill fails to live up to its name and only limits American civil liberties. The controversial Act that was passed by Congress last August altered the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and legalized the Bush administration's warrantless wiretap program, which many civil liberties organizations had strongly protested. "Every American s

    • Note: Paraphrased from my comment on Friday June 07, 2013 @09:07AM

      I share your frustration with trying to work the system at the federal level, but just because your vote in federal elections doesn't count, and your DC representatives are unresponsive, do NOT give me this BS about how you can't do ANYTHING to effect change. Working federal elections IS a waste of time, but many state governments are pushing back against federal overreach. e.g. marijuana legalization, rejection of federal firearms laws, ant

  • by kawabago (551139) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @08:12PM (#43931799)
    as long as they click on my ads!
  • it still matters [wikipedia.org]:

    Although the Panopticon prison design did not come to fruition during Bentham's time, it has been seen as an important development. It was invoked by Michel Foucault (in Discipline and Punish) as metaphor for modern “disciplinary” societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise. “On the whole, therefore, one can speak of the formation of a disciplinary society in this movement that stretches from the enclosed disciplines, a sort of social 'quarantine', to an indefinitely generalizable mechanism of 'panopticism'.” The Panopticon is an ideal architectural figure of modern disciplinary power. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more.

  • Backup (Score:5, Funny)

    by ISoldat53 (977164) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @09:03PM (#43932095)
    I accidentally deleted an email. Do you think I can get it from the NSA?
  • by some old guy (674482) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:50AM (#43933903)

    Now that so much of the lid is coming off of a lot of the long-suspected abuses by the government under the "security" banner, where are all the usual snide trollings about "tin foil hats" and conspiracy nuts?

    The really sad part, the thing that would make Madison and Jefferson cry, is that it isn't Bush's fault, it isn't Obama's fault, or even Nixon's or J. Edgar Hoover's fault.

    It's OUR fault, for being such a collective lot of either lazy, gullible, complacent, self-absorbed sheep, or snotty pseudo-sophisticated hipster smarter-than-you "intellectuals".

    The bastards have won, the Constitution isn't worth the parchment it's scrawled on, and we have no one but our collective selves to blame. /rant

  • by moeinvt (851793) on Friday June 07, 2013 @07:22AM (#43934727)

    Seems clear that the government views the American people as the real "threat". A threat to the power and privileges that they've granted themselves.
    Anyone that believes we should grant this government MORE power (e.g. to deal with "climate change", to get more involved with healthcare, to regulate free speech or to limit firearms freedom) needs to pay attention to stories like this and then spend some serious time examining their beliefs.

Nobody's gonna believe that computers are intelligent until they start coming in late and lying about it.

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