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We all love a conspiracy theory, but for me the latest Prism scandal is a little too close for comfort. For those who have had their heads out of the news recently, Prism is the top-secret surveillance system at the National Security Agency that collects emails, documents, photos and other material for agents to review. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘big brother’.
A former CIA employee, Edward Snowden, has now revealed himself as the source of leaks about NSA Prism (as of today he is now a missing person). He told The Guardian newspaper that the extent of US surveillance was “horrifying”.
We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place…I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things…I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.
So are we all being watched? Well if you use Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube, Skype and Google, start feeling uncomfortable. The techonology giants have been hit with allegations that they knowingly participated in Prism by giving the NSA direct access to their servers. This is in response to a leaked Prism presentation slide that states: “Collection directly from the servers of these US service providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” At least our Tweets and Amazon Wish Lists are safe.
Of course the US government and the technology companies all robustly deny the allegations, and indeed the government insist that information collected by Prism is only obtained with court approval based upon a written directive from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. However, The Washington Post on Sunday is quite convincing in its reports that Prism came about after extensive negotiations between the technology companies and federal authorities, and that there have been secret court orders that effectively give “one-time blanket approvals for data acquisition and surveillance on selected foreign targets for periods of as long as a year.”
OK so maybe you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’re a law-abiding citizen, but the thing that really worries me is that our privacy is being eaten away, and that we’re being lied to about it. Are Apple, Facebook, Google and all the other tech companies telling the truth? Or is this just a big conspiracy theory? Who knows, but at the moment I’m feeling like the only place where I’m not being watched is in my back garden.