By Michael Liedtke
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) – With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.
The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.
Verizon, and other companies, are handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Former NSA employee William Binney told The Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day.
The NSA and FBI appear to be looking even wider under a clandestine program code-named “PRISM” that was revealed in stories posted late Thursday by The Washington Post and The Guardian.
PRISM gives the U.S. government access to email, documents, audio, video, photographs and other data belonging to foreigners on foreign soil who are under investigation, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper said it reviewed a confidential roster of companies and services participating in PRISM. The companies included AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Skype, YouTube and Paltalk.
In statements, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and Paltalk all said they only provide the government with user data required under the law. (Google runs YouTube and Microsoft owns Skype.)1 2 3 4 next >>