The day before yesterday I received a comment from Bronchitykat asking me to explain further my last post. I started to make a reply comment to that but it occurred to me that a making a proper public post in full would probably be helpful to everyone and I promised to make one. Uh, but I didn't do it yesterday as promised because I didn't have time to log in (read:got too drunk at the pub), sorry :( But now I do have time and here goes:
What's the deal with PRISM (why you should care and protect yourself):
Edward Snowden was an employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton(and a former CIA technical assistant) when he sat down with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian in Hong Kong to be interviewed. In that interview documents were supplied to Greenwald that proved, among other things, that large tech/internet brands such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Skype, Microsoft and Apple (and others) have been named as participants in a clandestine NSA (American governments National Security Agency) electronic surveillance program called PRISM.
PRISM has been operating as a secret project since 2007. Since 2007 the personal data (text, videos, chats, pictures, etc. etc.) of Americans and persons living within America or electronically communicating with Americans has been collected and digitally stored without their authorization or consent by the NSA. Illegally so. Ameicans are guaranteed by the fourth amendment to their constitution:
'The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'
Americans have another guarantee by their constitution, that of free speech. The very fact that a whistle-blower had to flee to Hong Kong to speak to a journalist from a UK paper puts the constitutions (through government and failing that the peoples) ability to enforce those guarantees into serious question. To what extent each company named collaborated, or more likely acquiesced :(, is not known. What is know is that each company named has been proven to be a participant in this NSA program and by continuing to voluntarily supply them with information so are the people who use them. I'm not even American and the very thought of the American constitution being treated as nothing more than a relic to be ignored is offensive to me. I don't want to participate in PRISM.
Obviously if you live in America there is no way to completely opt out right now less never use a phone, computer, and some gaming consoles...or even talk to someone who does (and this goes for people outside of America to an extent too) Of course, and you know this if you've been listening to me babble on about Free software from time to time here over the years, how we communicate in the modern world is greatly dependent on technology. Many of us use a keyboard and/or keypad as frequently as we use our voice. The Privacy Commissioner of Cananda has stated that they will investigate whether or not we have a similar program. Scary. This issue is not limited to 'techy people' or "those poor Americans over there". Again, even if you're not American, if you use the services named you are affected; No question about it.
There are things you can do. Firstly, read up on PRISM yourself (this was a painfully inadequate overview). The EFF has published a tool called PRISM-break here that lists alternatives you can use instead to ensure your privacy and freedoms as best as possible (one of those alternatives is pump.io, what I was on about last post, and those on my friendslist just ask me for what username you want and you can use my pump if you don't want to use a public one). Donating to the EFF if you can and sharing the PRISM-break tool are good ideas too. If you're American please, please, PLEASE write the person who represents you (congressperson, governor, I'm not exactly sure..sorry :0). Even if you just scrawl in crayon 'PRISM is the suck' on a postcard it is so important that you do so because right now your tax dollars are funding the NSA; You are paying to have your rights voided and for your own surveillance :(