INTERNET GIANTS CONTINUE TO DENY SUPPLYING DATA TO PRISM BUT YAHOO WAS FORCED BY SECRET COURT TO JOIN – As Edward Snowden continues to elude the authorities over releasing National Security Agency (NSA) sensitive information to WikiLeaks.org; the internet giants continue to deny they are supplying the NSA with private user information.
These statements of denials by Google, Microsoft and Facebook have now come under attack as it is released that Yahoo fought rigorously against an NSA request to supply personal data on foreign users and lost in a secret court despite the fact a warrant was never issued.
Recently The New York Times obtained documents that showed Yahoo had initially refused to join PRISM and its spying regime under the stance that what the NSA and PRISM did was unconstitutional and directly violated the 4th Amendment.
The NSA then proceeded to take legal action against Yahoo under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of which the court sided with the NSA and forced Yahoo to open up its data banks to the NSA.
The documents uncovered now claim that the other tech giants are also being forced to supply data to the NSA’s spying program including; Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL and a few other small tech companies that hold personal and public data.
The NSA is still feverously trying to track down and extradite Edward Snowden, the 29 year old NSA systems administrator, who stole NSA secretive information on the PRISM program due to his fears that the U.S Government is now spying not just on its own citizens but on a global scale.
FISA appears to be an all-encompassing law designed to allow the U.S Government to arbitrarily obtain data on anyone anywhere without having to supply much in the way of evidence as to why they want to obtain information.
In the case involving Yahoo the judge made the following remarks:
“Notwithstanding the parade of horrible trotted out by the petitioner, it has presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse. The government’s efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts.”
If the judges’ comments are to be interpreted literally this gives, under the final phrase of ‘The government’s efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts’, the U.S Government the right to almost by-pass the court system and spy on any individual in the world.
One insider noted that Yahoo’s defeat and the judges’ comments are likely to dissuade other companies, such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook not to challenge any request for surveillance data from the NSA.
There are a number of questions that seem to be unanswered, such as will users now start closing their accounts with the internet giants, such as Yahoo, in order to protect their privacy? How much information has the internet giants already handed over to the NSA?
Considering the judges’ comments the U.S Government might just as well tear up the 4th Amendment and certainly other countries should be rightfully concerned that the U.S is spying on its citizens.
To date all of the internet giants have issued statements that they do not, under any circumstances, provide data to the NSA without a court order and yet Yahoo’s recent brush with the court would strongly indicate that such an order would be given cart blanche.
It is disturbing to think that the U.S Government last year filed more than 1,800 FISA request and a further 15,000 National Security Letters; these being requests filed by the FBI to collect data about American citizens.
According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), between 2008 and to date over 8,500 FISA request were made and yet only 2 were rejected by the ‘secret’ court.
It is unquestionable that the U.S Government, along with other Government’s around the world, must do all it can to protect its citizens; especially from the growing tide of terrorism. However, how far will the courts allow agencies, such as the NSA, to go before they are simply able to plug into the likes of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook in order to obtain data for any arbitrary cause it sees fit?
We have known for a long time that our personal data has never been 100% secure but for any secretive court to allow an security agency to tap in and spy on people without cause is not only a direct violation of privacy laws, an infringement upon civil rights, it is immoral and should never be allowed without sufficient reason and evidence to support such an intrusion.
Do you think PRISM is essential to National Security or is the Government simply being allow to spy on its citizens arbitrarily? Please leave your comments below.