One of the very first Snowden leaks alerted the world to the existence of PRISM – a program where the NSA is given access to the servers of major tech companies like Google, Yahoo and more. That particular program is supposedly operated with the consent of these companies, but a new leak suggests that the agency is also going behind these companies’ backs.
The latest Snowden leak, as reported by The Washington Post, shines light on a program called MUSCULAR. In short, it’s a joint effort between the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ to break into and take information from Google’s and Yahoo’s servers.
What kind of information can the NSA access through this? According to the report, the agency gathered email metadata alongside other content, like audio and video. In fact, the leaked report said that the NSA gathered over 181 million records from Google’s and Yahoo’s servers in only 30 days.
So, how is any of this legal? Collecting Americans’ information from the servers of tech companies is illegal, even for the NSA. According to the report, the NSA gets away this by collecting information from Google’s and Yahoo’s overseas servers. This loophole allows the agency to remain on the right side of the law as this collection is carried out through Executive Order 12333 – an executive order signed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Google and Yahoo are both understandably angry about this latest revelation, and Google says that it will continue to implement tighter encryption between the data links that connect its servers. By doing so, Google will be able to slow down, or even stop, the NSA from accessing its servers. As for Yahoo, there’s been no indication yet regarding whether or not the company is moving to encrypt the data links between its servers.
[Image: The Washington Post]