You think your selfies are safe? Your selfies are not safe.
Yesterday we noted the revelation that the U.S. government—by way of the super-secretive National Security Agency—had been exposed for collecting the cell phone records of Verizon subscribers for more than two months. The massive data surveillance, uncovered by The Guardian, has come under heavy fire in the last 24 hours. And as we feared—as you should fear—it's much worse than originally imagined.
Ever seen Enemy of the State? Well, enjoy this: The Washington Post is now reporting that the NSA and FBI have been "tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies" collecting audio, video, photographs, personal documents and private emails. The Guardian also recieved the documents, and are reporting on them as well.
The secret program, dubbed PRISM, began in 2007 with Microsoft being the first tech company to give in. Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Apple all followed suit (even though Google previously denied the government had "backdoor" access to "private user data"). Also, something called PalTalk, which people are currently trying to figure out what that is, exactly.
The Verge explained this thing in fairly basic terms: "The training documents for the program reveal that the NSA collects a large amount of data on the American public through the PRISM program. For example, if a specific target is investigated using PRISM, that target's complete inbox and outbox is swept, in addition to anyone that is connected to it. This high-level of access was initially given to the NSA by President Bush and was later renewed in 2012 by President Obama."
The ramifications of this government-driven data mining operation are monumental and have only just begun to unravel. We'll continue to do our best to break this down on this as it develops. But if you need a takeaway, here's a good one: The New York Times is running an editorial in tomorrow's paper, one part of which reads:
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.
And that published before the information about PRISM leaked out. This is the kind of nightmarish Big Brother state most people feared but also probably assumed existed to some extent, which they now know exists. The question now is which one of those headspaces—knowing, or not knowing—is preferable, given what's likely to be done about any of this, or rather, how much worse it's going to get.