Access to your data is made available through a program called PRISM which gives officials access to your email, video and voice chats, videos, photos, stored files, file transfers, search history, and more.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.
When confronted about the program an Apple spokesman said told CNBC "We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers.."
In a statement, Google said: "Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."
NSA access to this information was apparently enabled by changes to surveillance laws introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.
According to the presentation, Microsoft was the first to join the program in December of 2007. It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.
While companies may be legally obliged to reply with requests for users' communications under US law, the PRISM program gives intelligence services direct access to companies' servers. This means they can directly and unilaterally obtain an individual's communications without having to request them or obtain court orders.
The presentation claims PRISM was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a "home-field advantage" due to housing much of the internet's architecture. But the presentation claimed "Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage" because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
According to the Guardian more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program. Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's Center for Democracy, is astonished that the NSA would ask companies to do this. "It's shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this," he said. "The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications. This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That's profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation."
Many more details can be found in the full Guardian report linked below...