According to the Washington Post and the Guardian, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI have access to the servers of nine U.S. Internet giants, including Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and Facebook so as to monitor what foreign web users are doing. This of course has been denied by the IT groups concerned.
This secret program, code-named “PRISM” has been put in place since 2007. It allows the NSA to connect to corporate servers through a portal to view information about users who are abroad, without a court order. The AFP says that U.S. intelligence collect and stores on its servers billions of data analysis which are suspicions. This PRISM enables the FBI to consult directly and in real-time e-mails, phone calls, photos, videos on big Internet companies sites, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple and PalTalk. The Dropbox, platform file hosting should also soon join PRISM.
Indeed, if the U.S. law protects its citizens from surveillance conducted without prescription, this is not the case for people outside the territory that can be spied legally.
According to the Washington Post, the analysts who use the system on a web portal from the military base at Fort Meade must enter “selectors”, ie research keywords, so that the probability that the target is foreign exceeds 51%.
According to the “Guardian”, the NSA can see “e-mails, video chats, audio, videos, photos, chats like Skype, file transfers, details of social networks, and more.” This way Skype chat can be spied live.
Several companies involved have categorically denied having allowed intelligence services access to their servers to collect data on users.
Google said it was no “hidden door” to its servers for federal services and clarified that it was “very careful about data security of (its) users.” “We do not disclose data to the federal government in accordance with the law, and we review these requests carefully,” a spoke person said.
Apple also denied having ever heard of PRISM. Steve Dowling, a spokesman for the group said: “We do not provide direct access to our servers to government agencies, and such agency seeking information on a client must obtain a warrant.”
Facebook also denied these accusations. “We do not provide any government organization direct access to Facebook servers,” said Joe Sullivan, head of the security group. When authorities are tracing requests information, “we look closely at the lawfulness of such queries, and provide information in the boxes required by law,” he says.
Finally, Microsoft said that if the government would launch such a program “with companies voluntarily collecting data about users, we would not participate.” Also referred Yahoo Group denied providing direct access to its users to the government.
This intelligence service action was permitted by a law passed during the tenure of George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks. This law has been renewed and promulgated by Barack Obama in December 2012, despite the concern of elected officials on such white card given to the NSA. The White House has not formally confirmed the existence of the PRISM program, but has assured that it was essential to its fight against terrorism.
Technology giants appeared to be open to helping the US government fight against terrorism during an extraordinary closed-door summit early January that brought together America’s most senior counter-terrorism officials with some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful executives.
The meeting that happen in January 2016 between Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others and a delegation from the White House revealed a willingness on the part of tech firms to work with the government. And it also shows that the Obama administration it cannot can’t combat terrorists online on its own.
A briefing document sent to tech executives before this big meeting gave a wish list from the government delegation, which included America’s most senior spy, director of national intelligence James Clapper.
“We are interested in exploring all options with you for how to deal with the growing threat of terrorists and other malicious actors using technology, including encrypted technology,” the briefing document said. “Are there technologies that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize?”
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