The NSA is watching: Time to panic?

Despite telecom and Internet company denials about sharing data with intelligence agencies, the Prism program makes it clear that privacy only exists offline -- way offline.

By Jason Notte Jun 7, 2013 4:47PM
Image: Man with laptop (© Comstock Images/Jupiterimages)Now that The Guardian has assured everyone that their Verizon Communications (VZ) records are in the hands of the National Security Agency's Prism program and The Washington Post made it clear that the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation likely have your online records, too, what can you do to make yourself secure?

Documents obtained by the Post indicate NSA has taken data from the servers of Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Yahoo (YHOO) and Apple (AAPL). Microsoft (MSFT), which owns and publishes moneyNOW, an MSN Money site, was also named, though the company, along with several others named, denies involvement.

Congress may have some explaining to do as well. It went along with both the Protect America Act and amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Service Act in 2008 that not only immunized companies that voluntarily cooperated with U.S. intelligence investigations, but got rid of FISA's warrant requirement for targets "reasonably believed" to be outside the United States.

While Mashable notes the myriad ways Prism is intended to target only persons outside the United States, there's a lot of wiggle room for the attorney general to allow intelligence agencies access to whatever data they deem fit for their investigation. As long as the NSA has reasonable suspicions that someone involved is operating outside the U.S., according to The Guardian, the agency can access email, video and voice chat, posted videos, posted photos, stored data, VoIP calls, video conferencing, social networking details, logins just about anywhere and "special requests."

We'd love to tell you that you can avoid all of this just by moving your information to a site or service that isn't named, like MySpace, Twitter or Dropbox, but that's not exactly how the NSA operates. Another document obtained by The Guardian indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a Prism provider and that it wants, in its words, to "expand collection services from existing providers.”

If you want the absolute honest truth about privacy in the modern age, here it is: It only exists off the grid. If you have a number attached to your name, if you send a bill to someone, if you swipe a card, enter a login, use bandwidth, talk over land lines, send letters through the U.S. Postal Service or large package companies, you can be traced. If you don't want folks to find you, there are a lot of people in this nation of ours who equip their homes with solar panels, use radiant or gravity heat and drill wells in remote places with the sole purpose of preventing the rest of the world from finding them.

That's been the choice for as long as the overwhelming majority of us have lived here. Technology is just drawing that line more clearly. It's up to each American to make that decision for himself or herself, but neither the government nor its partners makes that decision easy when they swap information behind closed doors.

More on moneyNOW

Jun 7, 2013 5:38PM
The government under the Obama regime is out of control.  The ineptness of this administration is unbelievable.  We've given guns to the Mexicans, killed four Americans in Benghazi, turned the IRS against different American political parties and average working Americans, increased our national debt two fold, given Americans a health plan they do not want, wiretapped and gone through Americas private email and phone calls, forty-six million on food stamps, a 7.6 unemployment rate that people seem fine with, a president that is as surprised as us when there is trouble, a locked Congress, a sequester that the president wanted to make as painful as possible for the American people, and lies upon lies upon lies.  This is so distressing.
Jun 7, 2013 5:28PM
The revolution is almost upon us........Orson Wells 1984 is becoming true, The middle class is being systematically destroyed, police brutality is becoming the norm, Its not going to take a very big spark and the whole thing is going to go up in one big conflagration.
Jun 8, 2013 1:08PM
The Obama administration and Congress ignore the wisdom and cautions of the great minds that founded the United Sates and gave us the Constitution:
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."  -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, was enacted to protect US citizens against unreasonable search and seizure by any arm of the Government.  No matter how you cut it, recording (for later searching based any later-to-be-determined-reason) the email, phone records and Internet visit histories of hundreds of millions of innocent US citizens is UNREASONABLE.

Jun 7, 2013 7:45PM
Way Back in January of 2006, it was already already confirmed that Carriers were diverting their line traffic to go through NSA Wiretapping equipment. Yet today folks act as if it happen yesterday. In fact, a class Action Lawsuit was filled against AT&T for illegal allowing the Government to engage in warrant-less wiretapping of American Citizens phone and internet usage.

Way back in 2001, Bush ordered the warrant-less monitoring of Americans overseas phone and internet usage. Yet those that are Rush's low information voters will tell you different. Obama is Wrong and Bush was Wrong. Blame both for doing it and just tell the truth. Otherwise you are only making it worse.

Jun 8, 2013 4:22PM
I guess that patriot act that G.W. and the boys did in Congress after 9/11 is just now starting to come to light ???? LMFAO Only in America the land of the free??? Home of the truly stupid. ! But then starting two unpaid for wars looking for WMD's for over a decade and all the fine young men and woman we lost and are maimed for life ?  was the knee jerk reaction to 9/11 worth it ? I think not ..
Jun 9, 2013 5:40PM
Yes, it is time to panic when Administrative, Congressional, and Judicial branches of the US Government lie, obfuscate and hide actions under the guise of "protecting you from evil".

The Sunday news programs were filled with talking heads justifying the need for and effectiveness of the program that is the subject of this article.  They bent over backward to talk about all the "safeguards" built into the program.  Senator Feinstein so proudly explained "It's called protecting America!"

As to effectiveness, apparently only two cases have been revealed publicly where the program "lead to preventing a terrorist attack" in or on the US . . . details not released, and of course other examples of effectiveness are just too classified for you, an American citizen, to know about them.  And this all over the 7 or more years that this domestic spying has been taking place.  And now that the program is widely known, does anyone think for a moment that the really dangerous terrorists, who are smart, won't use methods like buying non-GPS-enabled disposable cell phones with cash and changing them frequently and communicating in code to circumvent this whole monitoring thing???

Also, was this program effective in preventing the Boston marathon bombing, or the Benghazi consulate attack, or the 2010 Times Square car bomb attempt, or hundreds of other terrorist attacks that have happened around the world over the last seven years?

As for safeguards,  anyone ever heard of Bradley Manning and his revealing secret information to WikiLeaks.?  Of course, agencies of the Government would never think of using private information to target innocent citizens, right? . . . OOPS, almost forgot about the recent IRS actions against select conservative  groups.

As for the Government lying to the American public, I will just refer you to the barefaced lie Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave to Sen. Ron Wyden, representing US citizens, when in testimony in March he said "No" in answer to the Senator's direct question "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

I apologize that this post is so long, but I'm very troubled by what this matter---and the Government's public explanation of it---foretells about this future of this country and the liberty of its citizens.
Jun 9, 2013 12:32PM
The Patriot Act was renewed in 2011 by a republican controlled congress....remember? Didn't they read it?
Jun 7, 2013 8:00PM
Even the Republican Controlled Supreme Court refuses to hear this particular case against the Government and has immunize Carriers against Lawsuits. Again this isn't a news Flash. Where was all this concerning during 8 years of Bush Republicans. When you cherry pick information just to swing elections, eventually folks will catch on. This issue has Both Parties and the Supreme Court on Board. If you want changes, why do you keep voting for the same folks or replace them with folks of the same flavor.
Jun 9, 2013 11:52AM

government has freedom to take away freedom of citizens.   emperor time.   All citizens live free or die hard.


is there a satellite watching me now?


they got the idea from the movie.  we can experience thrill movie for free now.  but we don't get paid?



I wonder how many hard drives they need for this?  hard drive companies make lots of money from this.


I think no any firewall software can shield this.  they can even send a virus to your pc, control your keyboard or destroy your pc. 


Time to panic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jun 7, 2013 7:33PM
Time to Panic, Breaking NEWS? News Flash, This has been going on Long before Obama became President. I was against it then and I am against it now. I do find it Odd that folks have somehow forgotten about this particular issue. It was Big News years ago and now it's Big News again. Both Parties are on board with this and have been so for quite some time.

Jun 7, 2013 7:12PM
The Government has been out Of Control long before folks even knew who Obama was. After 9/11, Bush and Company enacted far reaching snooping on a level not heard of since the Nixon Years. Bush and Company enacted the Patriot ACT, not Obama. It's funny how Republican voters didn't have a problem with Phone Taps and Airport Searches back then. Only when Obama came into office did only of a SUDDEN, a uproar by the right has come to light. The Heritage Foundation is defending these snooping Actions and literally every important Republican in Congress supports these actions. Far More Republicans voted for the Original Patriot Act along with the extension of it then Democrats. Yet the same poster will LIE to you and say different.
Jun 9, 2013 2:01AM
Watch out, the sky is falling, said Chicken Little.
Jun 7, 2013 7:20PM
Four who died in Benghazi compared to the 5000 or more that died fighting the Lie which is Iraq. Funny how Republicans just glaze over that like it never happen. Fact is Obama is hardly the criminal the Right makes him out to be. Is he far from perfect, hell ya but the lies the right are telling daily is disgusting to folks that want to hear Facts, not political motivated misdirection.

Corporations are sitting on RECORD CASH and Profits yet some folks prefer to run around screaming it's Obama fault. Corporations love that idiots focus on Obama and not the FACT that they are the one's screwing YOU. To let Corporations leverage their power base because some low information voters live with Alice in Wonderland is what continually drags this country into a Black Hole of lower paying jobs. More folks on Food Stamps because the Corporate Barking Dogs needs two more Mega Mansions while you live in a trailer Park. More folks on Food Stamps simply because Corporations refuse to pay a living wage.

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