PRISM Scandal: What Are the 9 Internet Companies Accused Of Helping the Government Spy On Americans?


Yet another surveillance overreach has been exposed by the Washington Post as attention shifts now to internet companies involved in spying on Americans. 

An in-depth report on the PRISM program that includes slides explaining the data-collection program which operates under the National Security Administration (NSA) and the FBI has been revealed.

PRISM was described by the Washington Post as “the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year” and ‘NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM’ as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.”

The mission of the National Security Agency is to provide foreign intelligence.  This makes the surveillance data collected by PRISM more disturbing since data is being obtained by utilizing American technology companies based in Silicon Valley. The NSA and TSA directly tap into the central servers of nine major Internet companies in order to obtain Emails, video, audio, photographs, documents and other related materials that allow analysts the ability to track an individual’s contacts and movement. 

The nine companies that knowingly participate in this data collection include (in order of entry into the PRISM program) Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. According to the Washington Post report, Dropbox is a cloud storage company that is “coming soon” to the PRISM program list. The Washington Post report also specified that, “In exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies such as Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA.” Congress gave the Justice Department the authority to compel a reluctant company “to comply” with a secret order in 2008, and 98 percent of PRISM’s surveillance data is provided by intelligence gathered from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Shortly after the Washington Times report that indicted the nine internet companies involved in the PRISM program, Apple issued a denial stating, “We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting consumer data must get a court order.”

Facebook has followed suit in denying involvement, “We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”

Google has provided this statement to Business Insider: “We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. 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 for the government to access private user data." Business Insider speculated that since 2009, “Google has warned the public about requests it gets to "hand over" data to the government. That's when it first launched its Government ‘Transparency Report.’”

It’s all well and good that a few of the nine internet companies that are involved in the PRISM program have denied wrongdoing and claim to have maintained compliance with applicable laws, but where does that leave consumers who have been subjected to this surveillance with little room for repercussions? I guess it’s time to throw out the Fourth Amendment and embrace the Orwellian United States where it is now “legal” for the government to spy on citizens.