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June 07, 2013 | Jim Killock

PRISM - Diffracting non-US Citizens' basic privacy since 2007?

It's being reported by the Guardian and Washington Post that the US National Security Agency can routinely access the sensitive data stored by big web firms including Facebook, Google, Skype, Microsoft, Yahoo, YouTube and Apple.


Top secret slides from the US National Security Agency say that email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (eg. Skype), file transfers, video conferencing, social networking details and 'Special Requests' are all collectable.

The web companies' response has been that if this has been happening, they were unaware of it and that they don't give government direct access to their servers. 

The Director of US National Intelligence, clearly talking with a US audience in mind, said that the law allowing this apparent collection of communications ensures that only "non-U.S. persons outside the U.S. are targeted."

Such a statement is intended to put American minds at rest. Where this leaves the rest of the world - including UK citizens, businesses, charities, MPs, campaigners and NGOs - is another matter.

In the light of this, the UK Government has very serious questions to answer.

  1. What did the UK Government know about the PRISM programme?
  2. Given the history of collaboration between the US and the UK, can they give us assurances that UK secret services have not been involved in the PRISM programme?
  3. Will the UK Government be seeking clarification from the US Government about whether the data of UK citizens is being monitored by the NSA?
  4. Has the UK received any intelligence based on queries made through the alleged PRISM programme?
  5. Would the Government advise that UK citizens, businesses and MPs stop using services provided by American web companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft?
  6. Can the UK Government give assurance that the commercial confidentiality of UK businesses has not been breached through the PRISM programme?

In addition, a Parliamentary investigation is required. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo need to answer to Parliament as to what data about UK citizens may have been included in the PRISM programme. The investigation should also ask questions of representatives of the UK Government and the intelligence agencies to bring transparency to clear up whether they had any involvement in the PRISM.

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