Reports in the Guardian that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is receiving Verizon phone records under warrant are followed by new surveillance revelations.
Late yesterday US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed the existence of PRISM, an electronic surveillance program conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. After paying tribute to the value of the information collected, Clapper offered reassurance: "[PRISM] cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States." Big data connoisseurs think "intentionally" mitigates the reassurance, but Clapper insists PRISM and the Intelligence Community fully respect civil liberties.
The Washington Post reports that NSA has access to servers at Google, Apple, Facebook, Dropbox, Microsoft, Yahoo, Paltalk, and AOL. All but the last two deny cooperating with the agency. (Paltak and AOL haven't commented.) Notably absent from the list is Twitter, consistent with that company's stiff-necked reputation with respect to privacy.
Observers note such electronic surveillance is very widespread globally.
Allegations of pervasive US Internet surveillance have two immediate international implications. First, they render the position of US tech companies in overseas markets difficult—analysts watch for customers bailing to escape NSA's alleged net. Second, they embarrass President Obama before his summit: Chinese spokesmen note PRISM confirms longstanding accusations of American cyber espionage. (Nonetheless, Congress continues advancing legislation against Chinese cyber operations.)
Elsewhere in the world, Britain tries to disentangle itself from Huawei, and Europe prepares to scratch its chronic dirigiste itch by revisiting net neutrality.