NSA scandal: what data is being monitored and how does it work?
Everything you need to know about data gathering from internet companies by the US National Security Agency
What is the scandal?
The US's National Security Agency (NSA), its wiretapping agency, has been monitoring communications between the US and foreign nationals over the internet for a number of years, under a project called Prism. Some of the biggest internet companies, from Apple to Google to Yahoo, are involved. The US government confirmed the existence of the scheme and its application on Thursday night.
Which companies are in the scheme?
Microsoft was the first to be included, in September 2007. Yahoo followed in March 2008, Google in January 2009, Facebook in June 2009, Paltalk, a Windows- and mobile-based chat program, in December 2009, YouTube in September 2010, Skype in February 2011 (before its acquisition by Microsoft), AOL in March 2011 and finally Apple in October 2012.
How long has it been going on?
The NSA has allegedly had means of monitoring internet communications as far back as Microsoft's Windows 95, the first version of Windows with built-in internet connectivity, in 1995. This specific project appears to have begun with monitoring in September 2007 of user data going to and from Microsoft.
What data is being monitored?
Potentially, everything. The PowerPoint slide about Prism says it can collect "email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details" and another category called "special requests".
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