The PRISM Separating National Security and Privacy

Every now and again a story comes along that really makes me want to stand up on my soapbox and rant, and the recently breaking government PRISM scandal is one of those types of stories. First a little bit of background on this story for the uninitiated:

According to a Washington Post article the U.S. government has been secretly tracking American’s online activity through an initiative code named PRISM. The name might sound like something out of a Marvel comic but the organization is very real, and what it does could be potentially terrifying to privacy-concerned citizens. According to leaked documents, the PRISM program has been in effect since 2007, gaining strength and capacity steadily since. Originally intended as a program to monitor foreign communications through US servers but in practice it would seem the scope is far greater.

PRISM, which began in 2007, has grown a lot since.

Under the program, the NSA is granted access to a number of familiar major company’s servers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, Youtube, Apple, if you have interacted with any of these companies over the last 6 years (and who hasn’t) your information is susceptible to government surveillance under PRISM. Now, admittedly, they aren’t likely tracking and monitoring every individual’s activity they actually have stringent guidelines for picking who to monitor. Actually, there is only one guideline, and its not stringent whatsoever. According to the report, an NSA analyst has to have only ”51 percent” certitude that the subject is “foreign”. The loopholes in this system are even bigger than the plot holes in an M. Night Shyamalan movie. And at this lies the root as to why the reaction of the American public to this story has varied along a continuum of terrified to furious.

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