On the heels of yesterday's revelation that the NSA is bulk collecting call logs from Verizon Business customers, the Washington Post is reporting tonight on another initiative, code named PRISM. According to the report, it gives the FBI and NSA access to "audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs" from the central servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL (parent company of Engadget), Skype, YouTube and Apple. Another program called BLARNEY sniffs up metadata as it streams past "choke points" on the internet, continuing the theme of bulk scooping of data most would think is private. The Post's knowledge of these programs comes from PowerPoint slides (like the one shown above) provided by a "career intelligence officer" driven to expose how deep it goes.
So what can the project allegedly see? Analysts based at Fort Meade use search terms to determine at least 51 percent confidence in a subject's "foreignness" before pulling data, which can include that of people found in a suspect's inbox. On Facebook, they can utilize the service's built in search and surveillance capabilities, monitor audio, video, chat and file transfers or access activity on Google's mail, storage, photo and search services. So... are you still logged in?
Update 4: Now we've come full circle, as the original Washington Post article has been expanded to include the various company's responses and denials (listed after the break). Another element that has changed is the mention of another classified report that suggests these companies may not be knowingly participating, and the NSA's access may not be as direct as originally claimed. Claiming the difference may be the result of "imprecision" by the NSA author, the arrangement is now described as "collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations."
Update (June 7th): Google has now issued a longer statement, signed by CEO Larry Page and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, which reiterates its earlier comments and also calls for a "more transparent approach" from both other companies and governments alike.
Update 2 (June 7th): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied involvement on his personal page, stating "Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers...We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday." Like the others, he claimed Facebook only provides information "if it is required by law" and mirrored Page's call for more transparency regarding government programs.