Initial reports that Verizon provided phone data has expanded and now includes “Internet surveillance ...including e-mail, chat services, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing and log-ins” as reported by the New York Times as part of PRISM under federal oversight by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI. Based on reports from the UK Guardian the PRISM system included PowerPoint slides:
...facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.
The Washington Post reported that this data has been collected since 2007 from “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
Apparently Congress has been well-aware of the PRISM system and terrorist activity has been found, but clearly the privacy of the Internet businesses are not as represented to the public. Notwithstanding these reports Google, Apple, and Microsoft have stated that user privacy has not been compromised including this comment from Google: “Google does not have a ‘backdoor’ for the government to access private user data.”
Privacy vs. National Security...the debate will surely continue as we learn more details.