Apple has admitted they also handed private data to Prism, the secret US government spy program revealed on June 6 by NSA contractor employee Edward Snowden. Using Prism, the NSA had access to tens of thousands of private accounts at Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple during the last six months. The NSA also snatches all internet traffic as it gets in and out the United States. Snowden is now hiding in Hong Kong. Developing...

Lastest updates

Monday, June 17, 2013 10:42AM—Today, Apple has admitted that the government obtained data from 9,000 to 10,000 devices as part of investigations on "robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide." The company also claims it doesn't chat messages or videoconferences and that "it doesn't store Maps, location, or Siri data in any way that could identify you."

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Saturday, June 15, 2013 3:00PM—The Associate Press has numerous sources detailing that Prism's collaboration with tech companies is just the tip of the iceberg—the NSA actually captures every single bit of data that comes in and out the United States, storing it for analysis:

...larger NSA effort that snatches data as it passes through the fiber optic cables that make up the Internet's backbone. That program, which has been known for years, copies Internet traffic as it enters and leaves the United States, then routes it to the NSA for analysis.

Opinion

Some tech experts say all this should be expected, some say it's no big deal.

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Others say it's a march to fascism. Is privacy officially dead?

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The story so far...

In reverse chronological order

Thursday, June 13, 2013 1:55PM—The Silicon Valley giants are telling a very different story than the NSA, which explained in top secret Power Point presentations exactly how the data comes from the biggest Internet companies to the government's massive spying operations.

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Patriot Or Traitor: Edward Snowden and the NSA Prism Surveillance Web

Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 7:25 PM—More Americans see Prism whistleblower Edward Snowden as a patriot than as a traitor, according to a new opinion poll. But the 29-year-old former intelligence contractor who leaked the details of the NSA's massive data mining operation is still unknown to most Americans—46% have no opinion on his motivations.

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1:40 PM—Prism whistleblower Edward Snowden has resurfaced in Hong Kong, telling the South China Morning Post that he's "revealing criminality" and has no other motives. He plans to stay in Hong Kong and has more secrets to reveal.

Since the shocking revelations were revealed a week ago, Snowden has been vilified as a defector but also hailed by supporters such as WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” he said, adding that he was proud to be an American. “I believe in freedom of expression. I acted in good faith but it is only right that the public form its own opinion.”

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Snowden tells the Hong Kong paper, “I will never feel safe."

Ron Paul Fears Edward Snowden Will Be Assassinated

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 11:39 PM—Congressman Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who first became a hero to young computer technicians in 2007, said today that he fears that the United States government will assassinate Edward Snowden using either a "cruise missile or a drone missile."

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Google, Microsoft and Facebook released open letters today asking the U.S. government to get the tech firms off the hook for cooperating with widespread electronic spying on Americans by the biggest tech firms as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In Maryland, the father of Snowden's girlfriend described Snowden as a man of "strong convictions of right and wrong." But because Snowden is generally "shy and reserved," Jonathan Mills said he was shocked by the revelations.

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Lindsay Mills, the 29-year-old girlfriend of Snowden, reportedly texted her father but did not reveal her whereabouts. Snowden disappeared from his Hong Kong hotel at least a day ago, and has yet to surface.

6:40 PM—While the world's attention turned to Edward Snowden's pole-dancing ballerina girlfriend today, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a legal backlash against the NSA and FBI's widespread domestic spying as Google and Apple sought permission from the U.S. government to disclose at least some of what's going on.

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The ACLU lawsuit is the first challenge to the widespread phone company spying revealed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old American who has single-handedly brought the nation's attention back to the long forgotten issue of constant surveillance.

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2:31 PM—The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald wrote the shocking stories based on Snowden's leaks, but Greenwald knows firsthand that surveillance dragnets allegedy created to target foreign terrorists are just as easily—and clumsily—turned on U.S. citizens critical of an overreaching government that increasingly seems to exist only to protect itself from the nation it ostensibly serves. The Nation's Lee Fang describes what was revealed just two years ago:

Two years ago, a batch of stolen e-mails revealed a plot by a set of three defense contractors (Palantir Technologies, Berico Technologies, and HBGary Federal) to target activists, reporters, labor unions, and political organizations. The plans — one concocted in concert with lawyers for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to sabotage left-leaning critics, like the Center for American Progress and the SEIU, and a separate proposal to "combat" WikiLeaks and its supporters, including Glenn Greenwald, on behalf of Bank of America — fell apart after reports of their existence were published online. But the episode serves as a reminder that the expanding spy industry could use its government-backed cyber tools to harm ordinary Americans and political dissident groups.

The episode also shows that Greenwald, who helped Snowden expose massive spying efforts in the U.S., had been targetted by spy agency contractors in the past for supporting whistleblowers and WikiLeaks.

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Majority of Americans Support NSA Spying

Monday, June 10, 2013 5:42 PM—NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has left his Hong Kong hotel as Republican members of Congress call for his extradition and the White House. The 29-year-old contractor for U.S. intelligence services provided details of Washington's decade-long spree of data collection on the phone calls and Internet use of all Americans, and now fears for his life.

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Nearly 19,000 people have signed the "Pardon Edward Snowden" petition at WhiteHouse.gov. Daniel Ellsberg, whose life was upended by his decision to leak the Pentagon's bleak assessment of its war in Vietnam, today is praising Snowden's "conscience and patriotism."

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Meanwhile, a solid majority of Americans surveyed by Pew Research Center say they're just fine with the constant surveillance of telephone calls and Internet use—56% of Americans support the illegal domestic spying, but only 27% of Americans claim to be closely following the scandal.

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3:04 PM—Palantir, the Silicon Valley startup named for an evil all-seeing rock from Lord of the Rings reportedly behind the NSA's Prism program to spy on all Internet activity, takes the hobbit life very seriously. A company director explained in 2010 that a surveillance program called "Save the Shire" saw America's perceived enemies as orcs and dark wizards.

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Sunday, June 9, 10:00PM—Edward Snowden: This is the man who told the world about PRISM, the NSA spy network capable of grabbing all your personal data—including private messages, photos and videos—with the help of America's top tech companies.

According to the Guardian, Snowden worked for the last four years at the National Security Agency. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," Snowden told The Guardian. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the U.S. government is doing.”

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Following the revelation of his identity, Edward Snowden was hiding in a Hong Kong hotel.

Despite Denials, Tech Companies Collaborated With NSA

Saturday, June 8, 3:30 PM—The Guardian has revealed the existence of a second NSA surveillance network. Its name is Boundless Informant and, unlike PRISM, it covers the entire planet. Unlike PRISM, however, this network doesn't capture the data but merely organizes it, indexing countries by the metadata obtained from local phone and computer networks.

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3:10 AM—The New York Times says that Facebook, Google and Apple are collaborating with the NSA, rebutting the companies' carefully worded statements. According to their sources, companies like Facebook built specific systems so the government could easily request and access their data.

This information contradicts Zuckerberg's denial, posted on his Facebook page Friday afternoon, which has the vague sound of many, many lawyers parsing their own language:

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access [added emphasis] to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

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Google's Larry Page posted something that sounds remarkably similar to Zuckerberg's statement:

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access [added emphasis] to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

According to the Times, the key words here are direct access. The government didn't have a backdoor to access the data, but these companies built a system for them:

New York Times | Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program

[C]ompanies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations said. Facebook, for instance, built such a system for requesting and sharing the information, they said.

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Obama Says PRISM Exists To "Keep Us Safe"

Friday, June 7, 3:31 PM—A mysterious Facebook-connected startup called Palantir—a Lord of the Rings reference to a magical method of surveillance—appears to be the entity that runs the NSA's PRISM program just revealed to be spying on all Americans at all times, with Barack Obama's approval. Obama was in Silicon Valley this morning shaking down the tech billionaires for campaign money:

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1:36 PM—Obama claimed the massive, unprecedented national surveillance system involves only "modest encroachments on privacy." As for any political fallout in Congress, Obama also made it clear that "your duly elected representatives have been consistently informed on exactly what we're doing."

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12:41 AM—Barack Obama, speaking live in Silicon Valley right now, said the electronic snooping "helps protect us from terrorism" and insists all the eavesdropping of every mobile call, email, instant message and file attachment is completely legal. Obama is in San Jose raising campaign money from the Internet billionaires who allow the NSA to spy on all Americans.

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11:18 AM—The nine major tech companies letting the U.S. government spy on all Americans all the time have denied being part of the wholesale surveillance program run by the National Security Agency and the FBI. The spies have full access to all Internet communications and mobile call data coming in and out of the United States and Britain—but the online collective known as Anonymous has already retaliated by dumping a huge trove of NSA documents on the Internet.

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NSA Surveillance Program Is Called PRISM

Thursday, June 6, 2013 10:29 PM—The Washington Post reports that the NSA and FBI are working with the top nine U.S. tech companies—including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple—to capture all your e-mails, photographs, audio, video, and documents, in addition to wiretapping all your calls.

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Their spying system is called PRISM. As a response, hackers group Anonymous have published 13 secret US government documents, including documents about PRISM and the Department of Defense's Strategic Vision for controlling the internet.

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Newly exposed proof that all the major telecommunication companies in America continue to hand over all phone data to the National Security Agency means that the White House's illegal mass wiretapping of people suspected of no crime has continued for a dozen years.

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Along with monitoring of web traffic, email and searches through the major telecom carriers, all phone calls been wiretapped with full cooperation of the communications companies since at least 2001. That the practice is illegal hasn't stopped the White House or NSA from continuing the wholesale surveillance. Congress reliably moves to make illegal spying legal whenever there's a scandal like the current Verizon outrage.

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White House Says Spying On Millions of Verizon Calls a "Critical Tool"

Wednesday, June 6, 2013 9:03 AM—America's spy agencies have had full access to US cellphone call data to and from Verizon customers since April, the Guardian reports. The Obama Administration is defending the National Security Agency phone spying as a "critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States."

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The secret order was obtained by the British newspaper and reported Wednesday night.

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Reuters | Obama administration defends phone record collection

The Obama administration on Thursday acknowledged that it is collecting a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier, reopening the debate over privacy even as it defended the practice as necessary to protect Americans against attack. Read...

AP | White House Defends Collecting Phone Records

The White House on Thursday defended the National Security Agency's need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens, calling such information "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats." Read...

Forbes | NSA's Verizon Spying Specifically Targeted at Americans

[T]he extent of the NSA’s surveillance shows that it has focused specifically on Americans, to the degree that its data collection has in at least one major spying incident explicitlyexcluded those outside the United States. Read...

CNN | Obama administration reacts to phone records report

A senior Obama administration official [...] stressed that the information acquired by the purported order "does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call." Read...

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Data from all incoming and outgoing calls is provided to the NSA under the top secret order, which the Washington Post describes as a "routine renewal of a similar order first issued in 2006." The White House did not specifically address the Verizon order this morning, but referred to at least one telecommunications company.

Past revelations of major U.S. telecommunications companies spying on Americans suspected of no crimes has shown that the other carriers have consistently opened their lines and data banks to America's spy agencies since 2001.

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Some tech experts say all this should be expected, some say it's no big deal.

Others say it's a march to fascism. Is privacy officially dead?

[Photos by the Associated Press and Getty Images. Illustrations by Front]