The Washington Post
and The Guardian
are reporting that the NSA has been collecting user information directly from major online services, including "audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and
Companies allegedly involved are Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. The Guardian reports British intelligence is gathering the same information. The program, designated "PRISM," operates under judicial oversight and has operated since 2007.
PRISM is apparently a very important intelligence program, cited in 1 out of every 7 intelligence reports.
It works with another program called BLARNEY, described as "an ongoing collection program that leverages IC [intelligence
community] and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit
foreign intelligence obtained from global networks."
PRISM collects selected information and attempts, half-heartedly, to avoid collecting U.S. content. "Analysts ... key in 'selectors,' or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51
percent confidence in a target’s 'foreignness'."
Reportedly Apple did not participate for several years, and Twitter does not. Other companies denied providing the government "direct access" to customer information. The source providing the materials described real-time monitoring of search terms, e-mails, chat, video and audio communications.