What is Prism?
It is a secret government organisation run by the National Security Agency (NSA). They had access to data held by major internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.
What data can it obtain?
Detailed information about online activity, crucially including the contents of emails and live chat. The documents revealed Ed Snowden suggested they had access to chat logs, stored data, voice traffic, file transfers and social networking data of individuals. The government also confirmed they had asked for millions of phone records.
When was it set up?
It is believed to have been set up in 2007 under the US surveillance laws passed by George W. Bush and renewed by Obama in 2012.
How has it emerged?
Through a secret NSA presentation to staff which talks of “collection directly from the servers” of internet providers.
How have companies responded?
They deny knowledge of the programme despite the detail of the NSA presentation.
How does it other countries?
As the primary sites of all the world’s major internet companies are in the United States, it means every communication by another national can in theory be read by NSA agents.
Is it legal?
This is uncertain and many privacy campaigners are investigating whether there are grounds for a legal challenge. Experts say the legislation covering the issue is sketchy. Many argue that protecting the country from terrorism is more important than individual privacy.
Are you concerned? Or do you agree that security is more important than individual privacy?
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