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Thread: PRISM -- NSA Monitoring Web Services We All Use?

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Default PRISM -- NSA Monitoring Web Services We All Use?

    Okay, what do folks make of this story that seems well reported on the surface, but has several alleged participants claiming there is no back door for government to spy on people? Who is telling the truth here?

    It's funny to watch people discover how fucking awful [alleged] government PowerPoints are: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv...ion-documents/


    Documents: U.S. mining data from 9 leading Internet firms; companies deny knowledge

    By Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, Updated: Thursday, June 6, 8:29 PM

    The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

    The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

    Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

    PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

    Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

    The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.

    In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to occasionally certify that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.

    Several companies contacted by The Post said they had no knowledge of the program and responded only to individual requests for information.

    “We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer for Facebook. “When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”

    “We have never heard of PRISM,” an Apple spokesman said. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”

    Government officials and the document itself made clear that the NSA regarded the identities of its private partners as PRISM’s most sensitive secret, fearing that they would withdraw from the program if exposed. “98 percent of PRISM production is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we don’t harm these sources,” the briefing’s author wrote in his speaker’s notes.

    An internal presentation of 41 briefing slides on PRISM, dated April 2013 and intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the slides and other supporting materials obtained by The Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

    That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

    The technology companies, which knowingly participate in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley, according to the document. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

    Dropbox, the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”

    Government officials declined to comment for this article.

    “I would just push back on the idea that the court has signed off on it, so why worry?” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This is a court that meets in secret, allows only the government to appear before it, and publishes almost none of its opinions. It has never been an effective check on government.”

    Roots in the ’70s

    PRISM is an heir, in one sense, to a history of intelligence alliances with as many as 100 trusted U.S. companies since the 1970s. The NSA calls these Special Source Operations, and PRISM falls under that rubric.

    The Silicon Valley operation works alongside a parallel program, code-named BLARNEY, that gathers up “metadata” — address packets, device signatures and the like — as it streams past choke points along the backbone of the Internet. BLARNEY’s top-secret program summary, set down alongside a cartoon insignia of a shamrock and a leprechaun hat, describes it as “an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

    But the PRISM program appears to more nearly resemble the most controversial of the warrantless surveillance orders issued by President George W. Bush after the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Its history, in which President Obama presided over exponential growth in a program that candidate Obama criticized, shows how fundamentally surveillance law and practice have shifted away from individual suspicion in favor of systematic, mass collection techniques.

    The PRISM program is not a dragnet, exactly. From inside a company’s data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes, but under current rules the agency does not try to collect it all.

    Analysts who use the system from a Web portal in Fort Meade, Md., key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by The Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report but add that “it’s nothing to worry about.”

    Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.

    Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who had classified knowledge of the program as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were unable to speak of it when they warned in a Dec. 27, 2012, floor debate that the FISA Amendments Act had what both of them called a “back-door search loophole” for the content of innocent Americans who were swept up in a search for someone else.

    “As it is written, there is nothing to prohibit the intelligence community from searching through a pile of communications, which may have been incidentally or accidentally been collected without a warrant, to deliberately search for the phone calls or e-mails of specific Americans.”

    A ‘directive’

    In exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies such as Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department authority for a secret order from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to compel a reluctant company “to comply.”

    In practice, there is room for a company to maneuver, delay or resist. When a clandestine intelligence program meets a highly regulated industry, said a lawyer with experience in bridging the gaps, neither side wants to risk a public fight. The engineering problems are so immense, in systems of such complexity and frequent change, that the FBI and NSA would be hard pressed to build in back doors without active help from each company.

    Apple demonstrated that resistance is possible when it held out for more than five years, for reasons unknown, after Microsoft became PRISM’s first corporate partner in May 2007. Twitter, which has cultivated a reputation for aggressive defense of its users’ privacy, is still conspicuous by its absence from the list of “private sector partners.”

    “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data,” a company spokesman said. “We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.”

    Like market researchers, but with far more privileged access, collection managers in the NSA’s Special Source Operations group, which oversees the PRISM program, are drawn to the wealth of information about their subjects in online accounts. For much the same reason, civil libertarians and some ordinary users may be troubled by the menu available to analysts who hold the required clearances to “task” the PRISM system.

    There has been “continued exponential growth in tasking to Facebook and Skype,” according to the PRISM slides. With a few clicks and an affirmation that the subject is believed to be engaged in terrorism, espionage or nuclear proliferation, an analyst obtains full access to Facebook’s “extensive search and surveillance capabilities against the variety of online social networking services.”

    According to a separate “User’s Guide for PRISM Skype Collection,” that service can be monitored for audio when one end of the call is a conventional telephone and for any combination of “audio, video, chat, and file transfers” when Skype users connect by computer alone. Google’s offerings include Gmail, voice and video chat, Google Drive files, photo libraries, and live surveillance of search terms.

    Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/invest...497_story.html

  2. #2
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    Watching MSNBC, Maddow does not seem happy.

    When FOX AND MSNBC agree that this is overreach...shall I brace for the Zombie Apocolypse?
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    Thanks for the powerpoint link. I am 99.9% convinced that this PRISM thing is a hoax. The last powerpoint says it costs 20 million dollars a year to operate. No way it costs that little! Maybe a few hundred million, minimum!

  4. #4
    Ignoring how most companies referenced in the slides deny knowing anything about prism, I find it a little funny that Microsoft was the first to sign on, and is now in the process of trying to sell an all in one entertainment solution thats always on and always listening.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agamemnus View Post
    Thanks for the powerpoint link. I am 99.9% convinced that this PRISM thing is a hoax. The last powerpoint says it costs 20 million dollars a year to operate. No way it costs that little! Maybe a few hundred million, minimum!
    I was just going to point this out. The government can't even make a pretty simple website for less than $250 million dollars. The other thing that stands out is the slides seem to reference YouTube joining the program separately (and at a later date) than Google, when YouTube is a subsidiary of Google.

    I mean, it's been no secret that the government can get a warrant for electronic records. What I think is bullshit/hyperbole here is that all these tech companies have a secret back-end that is blanket feeding proprietary data into government servers based on a simple database query from a bureaucrat in Virginia.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    I was just going to point this out. The government can't even make a pretty simple website for less than $250 million dollars. The other thing that stands out is the slides seem to reference YouTube joining the program separately (and at a later date) than Google, when YouTube is a subsidiary of Google.

    This could very well be due to the architecture of the design. Youtube didn't start under Google, and the same goes for Skype and Microsoft. Skype ended up under this program right before buying bought up by microsoft; Microsoft's intention and ability to spy and share skype information with the government was well talked about then too.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Washington Post has edited its story a bit: http://thenextweb.com/us/2013/06/07/...ta-collection/

    I suspect this is a decent reporting win buried within a somewhat-embarrassing reporting fail. The reporters got denials from ~5 companies, but sorta brushed those denials aside and over-relied on this anonymous source (who had good info surrounded by somewhat-bad info).

    It seems like this may be more focused on the ISP end, which is still pretty interesting to see reported at this level.

  8. #8
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    You geniuses come to a consensus yet on whether or not this was a genuine leak of real govt docs describing actual govt activities that cost less than 250 million USD?
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    Senior Member RandBlade's Avatar
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    He's the one running the program.
    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Okay, so now some of the tech companies have come out pretty forcefully denying that they are part of this.

    Facebook's Founder-

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Zuckerberg
    I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:

    Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

    When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.

    We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It's the only way to protect everyone's civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.

    https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10100828955847631
    Google-

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Page
    What the ...?

    Dear Google users—

    You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CEO and Chief Legal Officer, we wanted you to have the facts.

    First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

    Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

    Finally, this episode confirms what we have long believed—there needs to be a more transparent approach. Google has worked hard, within the confines of the current laws, to be open about the data requests we receive. We post this information on our Transparency Report whenever possible. We were the first company to do this. And, of course, we understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.

    Posted by Larry Page, CEO and David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/what.html
    Some props to Google for making a blog post that is almost titled "What the fuck?" It's clear that the government makes plenty of demands for user information across these services. However this idea of a back-end for non-stop database queries seems increasingly to be nonsense.

  12. #12
    I don't doubt that the PRISM program exists. I'm also not surprised that the average joe is misinterpreting the information we have so far; and you were so close to catching onto whats really going on.

    The monitoring is happening at the ISP level. That explains why different tech from the same company has different incorporation dates, the architecture of the transmissions is different. Data at that level is easier to collect since there are fewer bottlenecks that need controlled. Its why this story started by referencing a Verizon connection. Why AT&T was busted 7 years ago helping the NSA build a datamining operation connected to their hubs.

    All the NSA has to do is create a program that is able to correctly sniff out and mine the correct information as it travels through the pipes. A technology that's existed for years.
    Last edited by Ominous Gamer; 06-08-2013 at 04:35 PM.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  13. #13
    An article that outlines, hypothetically, how PRISM would work. Published a few minutes after my above post.

    http://www.zdnet.com/prism-heres-how...et-7000016565/

    The FISA court order authorized the NSA to place a wiretap device on Verizon Business' Tier 1 network, which effectively vacuumed up every bit and byte of data that flowed through its networks. If this is the case, Verizon would have been forced to comply, with no grounds to appeal.

    The key to this is what a Tier 1 network actually does, how it works, and which companies use it. Because all of the aforementioned companies use Tier 1 networks, and as a result they may have unknowingly had their customers' data siphoned off simply by being connected to the Internet.

    [...]

    There are only just over a dozen Tier 1 network providers in the world, including AT&T, Level 3, and Sprint in the U.S.; Deutsche Telekom in Germany; NTT Communications in Japan; and Telefonica in Spain, just to name a few major brand names. Verizon Business is, of course, also on that list as a U.S.-based Tier 1 network provider.

    [...]

    Companies with peering connections to Tier 1 networks include corporations like AOL, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Google and YouTube, Microsoft and Skype.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  14. #14
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    All those tech companies have denied giving gov't agencies direct access to their servers. To a non-tech person (like me) it sounds like a semantics and legal terminology run-around.

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    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Also, these things are now considered a new variant of "finger printing" technology. Private corporations legally collect, cache, and track this data, for their "own" purposes, with "consent" from their users. Pretty much anyone with a computer or cell phone has "consented" to these Terms of Service, even when it wasn't fully transparent, or understood.

    Anyone who's used Google, even once, has a web "finger print" that (theoretically) lives forever.

  16. #16
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Hope is the denial of reality

  17. #17
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Loki -- anyone can link an article. What's keeping you from stating your own opinion, and diving into the debate?

  18. #18
    Its not a crime to share information, not everything is a direct response to your postings.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  19. #19
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    It's also not really 'participating' when posting nothing but a link.

  20. #20
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Would you like a Cliffnotes summary? Pretty sure the link is relevant to this thread, and the Guardian is better at writing than I am.
    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    All those tech companies have denied giving gov't agencies direct access to their servers. To a non-tech person (like me) it sounds like a semantics and legal terminology run-around.
    It may sound that way to the ignorant but that would be just one of the many ways ignorance leads people to incorrect ideas and conclusions.

    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    Also, these things are now considered a new variant of "finger printing" technology. Private corporations legally collect, cache, and track this data, for their "own" purposes, with "consent" from their users. Pretty much anyone with a computer or cell phone has "consented" to these Terms of Service, even when it wasn't fully transparent, or understood.

    Anyone who's used Google, even once, has a web "finger print" that (theoretically) lives forever.
    No they're not. Your web "fingerprint" is something else and while that data is theoretically available from this it's not what has been referred to so far. Your web "fingerprint" is also rather indefinite. It changes. So yes, a particular fingerprint can theoretically live forever but its association with you does not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Would you like a Cliffnotes summary? Pretty sure the link is relevant to this thread, and the Guardian is better at writing than I am.
    I stopped reading the article after it discussed precautions the guy was taking against physical observation and then explained that his paranoia was reasonable because the NSA, the "biggest and most secretive surveillance organization in the US" would be looking for him. The NSA almost certainly is the biggest surveillance organization in the US government, certainly by volume of surveillance data it generates but physical surveillance is not exactly its forte. It doesn't have operatives, it doesn't plant cameras or audio listening devices. If you want physical surveillance you go to the FBI, the CIA, hell the National Reconnaissance Office. The NSA deals signal communication. Any observation it's doing is an attempt to sniff out any data-streams Snowden is generating. It cares not a whit about the spoken word in his hotel, or trying to watch his fingers type in a password. Does the Guardian even HAVE editors anymore?
    Last edited by LittleFuzzy; 06-09-2013 at 11:34 PM.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleFuzzy View Post
    It may sound that way to the ignorant but that would be just one of the many ways ignorance leads people to incorrect ideas and conclusions.
    Gee, what a great way to turn an admitted lack of knowledge into defacto ignorance, using that as a semantic bludgeon.



    No they're not. Your web "fingerprint" is something else and while that data is theoretically available from this it's not what has been referred to so far. Your web "fingerprint" is also rather indefinite. It changes. So yes, a particular fingerprint can theoretically live forever but its association with you does not.
    Not sure how you make that theoretical jump, when opposing theories claim what matters IS the lifetime of a digital finger/foot print, and any associations.



    The NSA almost certainly is the biggest surveillance organization in the US government, certainly by volume of surveillance data it generates but physical surveillance is not exactly its forte. It doesn't have operatives, it doesn't plant cameras or audio listening devices. If you want physical surveillance you go to the FBI, the CIA, hell the National Reconnaissance Office. The NSA deals signal communication....
    But today's modern digital surveillance is being defined according to previously defined physical surveillance standards. No, it doesn't mean any human operatives, spies, physical cameras or listening 'devices'. It means one computer program or software design can be overlooked, underestimated, and cause more damage than a thousand human moles.

  23. #23
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    All those tech companies have denied giving gov't agencies direct access to their servers. To a non-tech person (like me) it sounds like a semantics and legal terminology run-around.
    I agree, though they are trying to be pretty clear on this that there is no government back-end access. Now, the question is if the government is getting this information semi-directly via the telcos. Which seems more plausible in the face of these pretty upfront denials from Facebook, Google, etc.

  24. #24
    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post

    But today's modern digital surveillance is being defined according to previously defined physical surveillance standards. No, it doesn't mean any human operatives, spies, physical cameras or listening 'devices'. It means one computer program or software design can be overlooked, underestimated, and cause more damage than a thousand human moles.
    I don't even. . .



    for crissakes, GGT, what is it going to take for you to give me even the minor concession of keeping my words in the context of at least the post they were made in? Is it too much to ask for you to acknowledge the words I use directly modifying them (or which they are in turn modifying) when entering them into your stream of consciousness?
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Enoch the Red's Avatar
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    I don't think these revelations should come as any huge surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to these kinds of things, but that doesn't make it any less horrifying. I can't say what I think is worse, the fact that this is the new normal or that there are those in power who believe that these intrusions into our basic civil liberties are necessary and just on the grounds that they might have stopped some terrorist attacks. It's hard to say who we should be more afraid of at this point.

    I'm sure there are those who believe the program will be a victim of it's own success, that by quietly preventing horrific attacks on the homeland we have been given the luxury of indignation at the accretion of governmental power, but at what costs? Is this the sort of power we want our government to have, and are we ignoring the incredible potential it has for abuse?

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    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    I agree, though they are trying to be pretty clear on this that there is no government back-end access. Now, the question is if the government is getting this information semi-directly via the telcos. Which seems more plausible in the face of these pretty upfront denials from Facebook, Google, etc.
    The telcos are much more powerful when you ask me. AT&T, Vodafone etc. have pretty much all that information about what you do and where you are.
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  27. #27
    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch the Red View Post
    I don't think these revelations should come as any huge surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to these kinds of things, but that doesn't make it any less horrifying. I can't say what I think is worse, the fact that this is the new normal or that there are those in power who believe that these intrusions into our basic civil liberties are necessary and just on the grounds that they might have stopped some terrorist attacks. It's hard to say who we should be more afraid of at this point.

    I'm sure there are those who believe the program will be a victim of it's own success, that by quietly preventing horrific attacks on the homeland we have been given the luxury of indignation at the accretion of governmental power, but at what costs? Is this the sort of power we want our government to have, and are we ignoring the incredible potential it has for abuse?
    The terrorist attacks, as evil and horrific they have been, can not be a rational reason for such a program. It just doesn't make sense to spend so much money and time to such a relatively small threat. I find it unlikely that the government spends such an effort if there were no other reasons to do this. This isn't really the first time either, since the beginning of intelligence agencies, governments all around the world were tempted to use them against their own people.

    People should be able to have secrets from the government not the other way around. That's my idea of a free country.
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    One question is if this is actually that much time and money versus other intelligence-gathering techniques.

    I agree with your overall sentiment either, but I do think terrorism does justify a unique level of intelligence gathering. Maybe not at this level, but something close (done with a system of warrants) isn't unreasonable.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by earthJoker View Post
    The terrorist attacks, as evil and horrific they have been, can not be a rational reason for such a program.
    I think terrorism, as we see it now, is very low on the list of reasons for such a program. Look at how spectacularly it failed with the boston bombers.

    A program like this would be used for long term, large scale analysis and control. To track regional shifts in ideology, the rise or spread of anti-government sentiment.
    "In a field where an overlooked bug could cost millions, you want people who will speak their minds, even if they’re sometimes obnoxious about it."

  30. #30
    Senior Member earthJoker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    One question is if this is actually that much time and money versus other intelligence-gathering techniques.
    I actually question the overall level of spending on intelligence.
    I agree with your overall sentiment either, but I do think terrorism does justify a unique level of intelligence gathering. Maybe not at this level, but something close (done with a system of warrants) isn't unreasonable.
    Warrants only work if they are independent. There needs to be some part of checks. Who is the independent observer that has full access of the date without own interests in the data itself?
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

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