A recent report in Mashable suggests that an NSA program code named PRISM allegedly lets the NSA tap in to the servers of major Internet organizations, possibly at will. Organizations possibly involved in the program include Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube, and Skype.
If PRISM exists, chances are the Patriot Act helped make it possible. In the amended foreign intelligence surveillance act of 2008, section 702 outlines a section which earmarks approximately $20 million for use for the program.
How PRISM actually may work is questionable, it’s currently unknown how much information is just data and how much can actually be traced back to the user. However, combined with the metadata tools and the wiretapping powers the NSA has, PRISM may be the final key to track a user through every aspect of their communications regime.
The National Intelligence Director has insisted the leaked reports were “full of inaccuracies” without actually flatly denying the document itself. The NSA’s $8 billion annual budget dwarves that of other intelligence agencies, so your level of comfort with the program will depend entirely on how much you trust America’s most secretive intelligence gathering organization with your data.