What makes Prism shine? National Security Agency's megadata collection from Internet pipeline
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the months and early years after 9/11, FBI
agents began showing up at Microsoft Corp. more frequently than before,
armed with court orders demanding information on customers.
Around the world, government spies and eavesdroppers were tracking
the email and Internet addresses used by suspected terrorists. Often,
those trails led to the world's largest software company and, at the
time, largest email provider.
The agents wanted email archives, account information, practically
everything, and quickly. Engineers compiled the data, sometimes by hand,
and delivered it to the government.
Often there was no easy way to tell if the information belonged to
foreigners or Americans. So much data was changing hands that one former
Microsoft employee recalls that the engineers were anxious about
whether the company should cooperate.
Inside Microsoft, some called it "Hoovering" — not after the vacuum
cleaner, but after J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director, who gathered
dirt on countless Americans.
This frenetic, manual process was the forerunner to Prism, the
recently revealed highly classified National Security Agency program
that seizes records from Internet companies. As laws changed and
technology improved, the government and industry moved toward a
streamlined, electronic process, which required less time from the
companies and provided the government data in a more standard format.
The revelation of Prism this month by the Washington Post and
Guardian newspapers has touched off the latest round in a decade-long
debate over what limits to impose on government eavesdropping, which the
Obama administration says is essential to keep the nation safe.
But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government
and technology officials and outside experts show that, while Prism has
attracted the recent attention, the program actually is a relatively
small part of a much more expansive and intrusive eavesdropping effort.
Americans who disapprove of the government reading their emails have
more to worry about from a different and larger NSA effort that snatches
data as it passes through the fiber optic cables that make up the
Internet's backbone. That program, which has been known for years,
copies Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the United States, then
routes it to the NSA for analysis.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/prism-is-just-the-start-of-nsa-spying-2013-6#ixzz2WOZ70lFS