The NSA on Wednesday said “unequivocally” that U.S. tech giants were “fully aware” of the agency’s data collecting operations, The Guardian reports, even though tech companies denied having any knowledge of the Prism program, or helping the NSA in any way. In fact, since the Edward Snowden leaks hit papers and the Internet, tech companies have tried to reassure customers that their privacy is very important to them by either enabling encryption for their online services, asking the government to allow them to disclose the volume and type of data they share with the agencies, and/or campaigning against the NSA’s bulk data collection efforts.
NSA general counsel Rajesh De said while testifying before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that “all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies,” whether it was the “Internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called ‘upstream’ collection or communications moving across the Internet.”
When some tech companies said they never heard about the term “Prism,” they weren’t lying as the term was “was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term.” However, tech companies must have known the actual process behind Prism no matter what its name was. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive,” De said. “All 702 collection is pursuant to court directives, so [tech companies] have to know,” he added.
Section 702 was passed in 2008, allowing the NSA to “collect phone, email, Internet and other communications content when one party to the communication is reasonably believed to be a non-American outside the United States.” The data collected under Prism can be stored for five years, while communications taken directly from the Internet for two years.