According to documents obtained by The Washington Post and the Guardian,
NSA and FBI are extracting e-mails, photographs, documents, video and
audio chats directly from the central servers of nine leading U.S.
Internet companies, within a programme called PRISM which has not been
made public until now.
As one of the documents mentions, the companies in question are:
Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
The British equivalent of NSA, GCHQ appears to gather the same type of
data from the same companies, through PRISM which allows them to
circumvent the formal British legal process for obtaining personal
material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company
based outside of the country.
Also, an anonymous source from within the Dutch intelligence services
revealed to the Dutch De Telegraaf, the unlimited access the authority
has to the data of civilians and enterprises. Although this access
should be limited by internal procedures, these services can apparently
take information easily through PRISM. Similar activities were reported
in Belgium or Germany.
The US have no comprehensive federal privacy legislation but have
instead spying measures like the PATRIOT Act and FISAAA in place.
Moreover, the constitution only covers US citizens, putting foreign
users of cloud services under very little protection from US government
To make things worse, the EU has failed in the process of adopting a
proper data protection regulation. The initial draft of the regulation
has been weakened by the US strong lobby. Safeguards meant to create a
legal foundation when transferring data to third countries were removed
as a direct result of the US pressure. “Bizarrely, the majority of
commissioners decided that they wanted to give up this strategic
advantage, in return for, it appears, nothing,” explains Joe McNamee,
the executive director of EDRi.
In addition to watering down the proposed Regulation, countries like the
UK are trying to delay the process and subsume it into the EU-US free
trade agreement (TTIP/TAFTA), which would subordinate a fundamental
rights discussion to a trade negotiation.
Dutch Liberal deputy, Sophie in’t Veld, told EUobserver that she hoped
the PRISM scandal “could help raise awareness” of the issues in Brussels
and believes the European Commission must take a tougher position in
future US talks. “I am somewhat surprised everybody is getting so
excited about this latest scandal. It is just one of the many examples
of the US tapping into our data without telling us. And of the EU
commission doing nothing about it,” in’t Veld said.
U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies
in broad secret program (7.06.2013)
EDRi: PRISM explains the wider lobbying issues surrounding EU data
protection reform (10.06.2013) http://edri.org/prism
Bits of Freedom: Dutch spooks must stop use of PRISM (translation of a
Dutch press release, 11.06.2013)
‘We try to collect everything and hang on to it forever’: US
intelligence agencies’ cosy relationship with academia and business may
be hard to unwind (10.06.2013)
Germany most snooped EU country by US (10.06.2013)
US defends spy programme to sceptical EU (14.06.2013)
Belgium had access to the data in PRISM (10.06.2013)