Technology giants implicated in PRISM surveillance system


In 2013, Edward Snowden, working under contract to the US National Security Agency for the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, copied and leaked thousands of classified documents that revealed the inner workings of dozens of previously unknown surveillance programs. One of these was PRISM, launched in 2007, which let NSA use direct access to the systems of numerous giant US technology companies to carry out targeted surveillance of the companies' non-US users and Americans with foreign contacts by collecting search histories and the contents of emails, file transfers, and live chats. The technology companies, which included Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, AOL, and Yahoo, all denied knowledge of the program, although the presentation Snowden leaked claimed their assistance in providing access. In a statement, Google responded that government had no direct access to its systems and that it only provided user data to governments in accordance with the law.

As a result of the revelations, numerous European data protection regulators stepped up existing investigations, particularly two into Google: one concerning its merged privacy policies, and another concerning collection of wifi data by the company's Street View cars. The revelations also inspired Austrian law student Max Schrems to mount his legal case against the US-EU Safe Harbor agreement.

tags: Google, PRISM, NSA, surveillance, Edward Snowden, regulatory actions, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, AOL, Yahoo, backdoors, Max Schrems

Writer: Glenn Greenwald and Ewan McCaskill, Larry Page and David Drummond, Hayley Tsukayama

Publication: Guardian, Google blog, Washington Post

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