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