FBI, NSA said to be secretly mining data from nine U.S. tech giants

FBI, NSA said to be secretly mining data from nine U.S. tech giants

Summary: UPDATED: Turns out U.S. government agencies might be tapping into into a lot more than just Verizon customer records.


Both the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are said to have been secretly mining data directly from the servers of at least nine top U.S.-based technology companies, according to The Washington Post.

Citing a leaked presentation intended for only senior analysts within the NSA's Signals Intelligence Directorate, which was then obtained by the Post, this was all done since 2007 under a highly-classified program dubbed "PRISM."

As for the companies involved, it's a who's who list filled with Silicon Valley behemoths that is surely going to upset lawmakers and average Internet users alike.

The ring of nine consists of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and video chat room community PalTalk. Apparently Dropbox was slated to be the next one added to the list.

The kind of content being extracted from the central servers at theses tech companies include audio, video, photos, e-mails, documents and connection logs.

According to the report, the data was extracted to produce analysis that could point toward tracking a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The Washington Post's Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras highlighted why this is particularly alarming that the NSA was involved:

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 NSA is already under fire after it was discovered on Wednesday that the agency has been collecting millions of Verizon Wireless customer records on a daily basis.

As first reported by The Guardian, based on another leaked "top secret" court order, the nation's largest mobile provider was ordered on an "ongoing, daily basis" to hand over information outlining call data in its systems to the NSA.

On Thursday, ZDNet obtained a copy of a note sent by Verizon chief counsel Randy Milch to employees.

In the note, he didn't confirm or deny the story. But in describing it as an "alleged" court order, he stressed that the text "forbids Verizon from revealing the order's existence."

Slides via The Guardian

Topics: Government US, Big Data, Legal, Privacy, Tech Industry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • It's a bargain

    Considering what they're getting $20 million a year is a steal. Doesn't mean I like it. In fact, I hate it. But it doesn't look like the money is being wasted. lol
    R.L. Parson
    • 20 Million?

      What they did not tell you is they built a 1.2 billion dollar data center in Utah to store this data.
      Doesn't sound like much, add in the labor to build and maintain data and your at 2 Billion! That's what we know... Imagine what the real numbers are..
    • Patriot act

      I knew Stalin was alive and well
  • So "the cloud" and "social networks" are being monitored by ....

    ... big brother. Anybody surprised??
    • only surprise

      The only surprise is that we the sheeple accept that crap!
      • Careful what you post

        You're being monitored.
        • Courage or cowardice

          Once you realize that everything that you say can be monitored you have to decide whether to begin fearing the monitoring, which is exactly the intent (less than the monitoring itself), or to stand up and express yourself honestly. While there is some question as to the repercussions of the latter, there is no question about the downside of the former.
          • Cryptocat

            Is the answer... along with any other secure, encrypted chat program - even pidgin has an encryption plugin and pidgin works with AIM, MSN, Yahoo and pretty much everything other than Skype... that last part annoys me as skype is my primary since it was, previously, p2p and fully encrypted.
      • People see no value in what they post

        What's worse is misinterpretation, but whatever.
      • Accept that crap...


        I like that..."We the Sheeple"...
    • at least china was

      Up front about them monitoring theirs country data from the get go... the US is slowly becoming the new china as far as internet monitoring goes. More and more laws and stipulations are and will be set in place to allow the US governmwnt free reign on data spying... one word alone so far allow this. "Terrorists". Get that label and ur done for...

      From the data center side... 1.2billion is a starship load of paper for just one. I bet theres a complete redundant datacenter elsewhere. I worked at a 4million dollar one and there was a 2million dollar backup one that was used to just backup all the data there... backup of backup.
      Free Webapps
  • How is this news now?

    Having worked at one of the major telecom's I can tell you that this has been going on big time with all the major carriers ever since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act.
    • Yeah

      I've been telling people about all of this since the (un)Patriot Act was passed. Some of the illegal activity predates the (un)Patriot Act. They passed that Act in order to legitimize some things they had already been doing illegally for many years. The cloud has never been safe. Your online data has never been private. Our government does the same things that China does to its citizens. Welcome to reality. I laugh every time I see the hypocrites in our government criticizing another government for human rights violations. Our government is one of the worst offenders in the world.
      • And yet you and me and everyone else is still around,

        unlike many in China and other similar countries...

        Big difference...
        • Not everyone is still around

          It isn't hard to find a long and detailed list of those who are no longer around.
        • That's not the point!

          This activity, not what else it might enable, is in and of itself an infringement on the inherent rights of free men! And unconstitutional! It takes more than passage of legislation like the (un)Patriot Act to override the 4th Amendment; to legitimize this stuff *on the legal plane* would require another Constitutional Amendment. Even if that were done, it would remain a violation of our rights!

          But if you want to make that side point, I'll oblige. The fact that we are "still around, unlike many in China and other similar countries" means little. The real point is that this infringement would make it that much easier for any malefactor who was in power to target and abuse power in the same way as those countries you mention, once they decided to do so. Maintaining privacy and limiting the power and intrusion of government is a *vital* check on its ability to make that leap!
      • Bill, you have now been entered into the database

        Black Ops
        • LOL!

          and so has everyone else that has commented on this subject matter. They really are putting that IBM supercomputer to good us there to spy on us.

          Catch me if you can...

          (knocks heard on my door)
          Free Webapps
  • My question is...

    ...how do you get probable cause for what appears to be a fishing expedition?
    John L. Ries
    • Easy

      You don't. The Bill of Rights is a joke these days. Ignored whenever the government feels (at their sole discretion) it's necessary.