If you thought the National Security Agency's collection of Verizon phone-call data was bad, wait until you hear about the seven-year-old, previously undisclosed classified government program that works with nine very major U.S. Internet companies to secretly scrape your online life and has become "the most prolific contributor" to President Obama's daily intelligence report and is "increasingly" important to the NSA. (UPDATE: Other late Thursday reports have named even more companies encompassed in the agency's data collection program. More here) PRISM, as the classified Silicon Valley collective is code-named, collects information such as emails, documents, audio, video, and photographs from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, according to a shocking Washington Post scoop. "From inside a company's data stream the NSA is capable of pulling out anything it likes," write the Post's Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras. You can see a full list of everything that encompasses in slides provided to the Post by what appears to be a single leaker the day after the Guardian's Verizon scoop, but suffice it to say this is a much bigger buffet of privacy invasion than the meta-data of your cellphone calls, which at least doesn't include the content of an innocent American's conversation. But don't worry, the program — approved under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but centering on American companies and their data — also includes a system, codenamed BLARNEY, that scrapes meta-data, too.
So much for Internet companies pushing back against unwarranted government surveillance. Just like the telecoms, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits, these nine Silicon Valley giants (perhaps with more on the way, though Twitter has held out and Apple waited for five years) have to accept a "directive" to open their servers to the FBI's Data Intercept Technology Unit. As this next enlightening slide from the Post shows, it hasn't taken too long for those companies to join the cause.