For those looking to quickly understand this whole government-monitoring-everything story, we at AllThingsD are here to help.
Here’s a primer on the subject, including links to read more.
First off, check out the pieces by The Guardian newspaper in Britain, which has been breaking most of the news on this. Its original report from Wednesday detailed collection of phone records for millions of Verizon customers, while later stories have looked at the PRISM program for monitoring data collected on the Internet as well as a separate program, dubbed Boundless Informant, used to map and classify the data that has been collected.
Initial reports from both the Guardian and Washington Post suggested that Internet giants including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple had given the government complete and unfettered access to their servers. The Internet giants lashed back, saying they hadn’t heard of PRISM and weren’t providing the government with direct access to their servers. It appears reality is more subtle, perhaps with the companies providing an automated shared storage mechanism to deliver materials requested by the government and authorized by a secret court.
While the government hasn’t specifically responded to much of what the Guardian and others reported, it has criticized the paper both for publishing secret information and for failing to provide the proper context. On Saturday, the director of national intelligence declassified a few details about the PRISM program. Some senators, including Mark Udall and Al Franken, have called for reform of the Patriot Act and closer oversight of the monitoring.
To better understand the laws that make all this monitoring possible, check out this piece from our own Arik Hesseldahl.
Here are some other good stories to read out there:
- CNET’s Declan McCullagh reports there is no evidence to suggest that the Internet giants were giving the federal government direct and complete access to their servers.
- Speaking at the Nantucket Conference, former IBM and Microsoft executive Ray Ozzie lashed out at the government programs, saying it is time to rein in such efforts.
- Hacker News had an interesting discussion on how companies might be able to do a better job of indicating if they have been forced to participate in government data-gathering efforts.