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I have a tremendous number of thoughts about the various revelations about the NSA's domestic espionage programs revealed this week. But first and foremost, I wanted to share this message from +Larry Page and our Chief Legal Officer +David Drummond. Google had no involvement in the PRISM program and the first we heard of it was when Greenwald's article hit the press.

I'm not sure what the details of this PRISM program are, but I can tell you that the only way in which Google reveals information about users are when we receive lawful, specific orders about individuals -- things like search warrants. And we continue to stand firm against any attempts to do so broadly or without genuine, individualized suspicion, and publicize the results as much as possible in our Transparency Report. Having seen much of the internals of how we do this, I can tell you that it is a point of pride, both for the company and for many of us, personally, that we stand up to governments that demand people's information. 

I can also tell you that the suggestion that PRISM involved anything happening directly inside our datacenters surprised me a great deal; owing to the nature of my work at Google over the past decade, it would have been challenging -- not impossible, but definitely a major surprise -- if something like this could have been done without my ever hearing of it. And I can categorically state that nothing resembling the mass surveillance of individuals by governments within our systems has ever crossed my plate.

If it had, even if I couldn't talk about it, in all likelihood I would no longer be working at Google: the fact that we do stand up for individual users' privacy and protection, for their right to have a personal life which is not ever shared with other people without their consent, even when governments come knocking at our door with guns, is one of the two most important reasons that I am at this company: the other being a chance to build systems which fundamentally change and improve the lives of billions of people by turning the abstract power of computing into something which amplifies and expands their individual, mental life.

Whatever the NSA was doing involving the mass harvesting of information, it did not involve being on the inside of Google. And I, personally, am by now disgusted with their conduct: the national security apparatus has convinced itself and the rest of the government that the only way it can do its job is to know everything about everyone. That's not how you protect a country. We didn't fight the Cold War just so we could rebuild the Stasi ourselves.
Dear Google users— You may be aware of press reports alleging that Internet companies have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. As Google’s CE...
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What are your thoughts on the similarity between this message and Mark Zuckerberg's?
I see this as an excellent opportunity to set the record straight on the roles Google, the US Government, and other corporations play in protecting and usurping our privacy.

And I have a fairly clear idea what the results will be.
If you deny enough times repeatedly it starts to sound like truth ...
Thanks for the statement. How though do you explain the slides? 
Hm. So what is Google's policy on selling information to those who pay for it, like consumer research outfits? Is the main objection from Google over the fact that the government isn't paying for it? Sorry for being so cynical, but I have to ask.
Adam Liss
+Sheila Nagig which consumer research outfits pay for Google's data?  Name one—just one, please.
+Peter da Silva Haven't read Zuckerberg's, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if the exact same were true of Google and Facebook. 

+Aqeel Khan This is, to the best of my personal and professional knowledge, the unvarnished truth. 

+Scot Stevenson I suspect that one of two things is going on. Either PRISM is somehow referring to the simple issuance of warrants and similar instruments to companies, in a legal fashion, and that just happens to have been remarkably fruitful; or they've been doing some kind of mass tapping of computer networks at another points, perhaps the ISPs, and using deep packet inspection to siphon off traffic related to Google, Facebook, etc., services. That would probably require them having some processing boxes sitting in closets near major switching stations of the underlying computer network, say at telcos. 
Direct access was what the WashPo accused them of.
Of course they respond to subpoenas. court orders and national security letters. It's called following the law. If you don't like the law, work to change it.
"All the major technology companies named in the Post's report have adamantly denied that they have given the government full access to its servers in similar prepared statements."
The key word here is "full" as opposed to "Partial".
I am not sure what to think about this. Their was a Chinese reporter that got executed after his Gmail emails were given to the Chinese Government. So it's not like Google hasn't done something like this before.

Also if Google was part of PRISM they would have  to deny it.

Let's just see what happens once the evidence has been made public.

It's a bit too early yet to sharpen the pitchforks.
It's my expectation that much of the personal details that people don't want the government to have access to because they are "shocking" or "compromising" if revealed publicly are actually quite common. 

Somewhere in the mass of Google Search data history this is revealed. I expect that in the long run Google can do a service to all of us by stripping personal information from these types of data and making them available without attached identities. Reality trumps mythology. 

People drink, use non-legal recreational substances, cheat on their partners, companies, families and sororities, drive through red lights and do all other sorts of things they reveal in e-mails. Mostly, Google and/or the Federal Government doesn't care. They're looking for things like terrorism and human trafficking. 

If you're not building bombs or keeping six slaves in the basement; no problem. It's still nice to know that Google keeps all my investigations into herbalism hush-hush though. 
+Yonatan Zunger having the co-operation of Tier 1 network providers and a bunch of pliable root CAs would be entirely sufficient for the NSA to get all they need, yeah. :-)
+Sheila Nagig We don't sell our users' information to anybody. We do use user information to target ads, but the way that works is that the advertiser gives us the ad and some idea of who they want to advertise to, and we show the ads to those people -- we don't feed the personal information back to the advertisers! 

One important thing to understand about Google's advertising philosophy is that it sort of reverses traditional advertising dogma. The old (1950's) approach was to show your ad everywhere, to get the brand hammered into everyone's head. The original Google idea about ads was to use the same sort of logic that we use for search to try to figure out which ads would be valuable to the user at that particular moment. As one of our VP's once said to me, if we're doing it right, the users should complain if the ads are missing. 

And this approach has made us what's technically known as "large stacks of cash:" it turns out that, if you show people ads at times when they might have commercial intent, or generally be receptive to them, and show them ads about things which they might personally find interesting, they're a lot more likely to actually click on them and use them. Which makes these ads convert at a much higher rate than traditional ads, which makes advertisers happier, too. 

And as far as our users' personal information -- not just the aggregated data that we use to serve ads, but their actual e-mails, locations, and so on -- we are extremely protective of that and don't even let it flow around internally within the company. The mere suggestion that someone could use our systems to find a way to infer a small bit of private information about someone without their consent is enough to cause people's eyes to bug out and trigger a lot of very serious, urgent discussions.  It's a bit hard to describe to the outside world just how privacy-obsessed this company actually is. 
That's actually a very satisfactory answer, +Yonatan Zunger. I will admit to having wondered exactly how Google or more specifically Google+ leveraged user content into money. Now I know. Thanks for taking the time to explain.
+Richard Arnold I'm kind of fond of the Apple quote in that ABC article for its simplicity. To the very best of my own knowledge, which I admit is not infinite, that is true for us as well. 
+Mirosław Baran I wasn't! If it came off that way I'm sorry.

Rereading my comment I can see how it came off that way. Sometimes I forget to proof read the tone of my posts/comments. That's my fault.

I was just trying to point out that what you were asking about exists. Not everyone is aware of it.
+Yonatan Zunger, unfortunately people are going to believe what they want to believe. Stories will grow and new conspiracies will be spawned beyond what I'm sure already existed before these revelations. I for one am glad to read your thoughts on the subject and believe that, indeed, you would not be able to go to work in the morning knowing you ever played a part in such a thing as it has been characterized. I'm only sad that I cannot provide such a character reference to our government.
+Yonatan Zunger I am in no way trying to be combative in your thread but when Google's two top officers publicly and somewhat vigorously supported Barrack Obama it gets harder and harder to decide who to trust or believe any more.
+Richard Arnold I supported him, too, and his continuing support of the permanentization of our state of infinite war, and a growing and uncontrolled "national security" complex, is a deep concern to me. (As is that of one of my senators, Diane Feinstein -- I've had some issues with her positions on these matters for a few years, going back to the MCA) I'm going to be looking at candidates' positions on these matters very closely in all future election cycles.
I want to see evidences. But if there is any inclination that Google was involved with PRISM I will boycott all their services.

Internet companies need to understand that this isn't OK, and the public won't stand for it.
But I want to see evidences before I make such a harsh decision . At the moment it's just hearsay.

I am hoping there is no truth in the  accusations.
+Adam Liss You might want to look at my response to +Sheila Nagig, and her response to me. She's not trolling, she's asking a legit question; it's quite reasonable to be concerned about these things. And, unlike with many of the things involving government surveillance, the truth is actually much more reassuring than the rumors here. I'm proud of our company's ethics on this stuff.
As am I.  Nothing allays fear of the unknown better than the truth.  Thank you for your excellent (as always) explanation of our policies and culture.
+Yonatan Zunger - I don't doubt your account or your personal lack of awareness of these sorts of programs. With all due respect, however, NSA's technical reputation is deservedly legendary. (I actually admire NSA. They are quite respectful of civillian authority. Of all our agencies I regard them as probably the most ethical.)

But I also happen to know that under the laws drafted for these sorts of programs, participants are permitted to lie under oath and required to deny the existence of them...So a denial from +Larry Page (whom I admire greatly by the way) is not particularly helpful.

It's entirely conceivable that no direct access to application level datacenters are required for these programs. AT&T (or what is left of its terrestrial networks) has a long, well documented relationship with NSA.

It's also entirely conceivable that, somewhere within Google's vast infrastructure there exists a limited access room staffed entirely by "outside contractors" who are in fact, NSA personnel operating under a contractor's name.

But I don't hold Google, MS, Apple or even the NSA responsible for the passage of these laws. The problem (as other activists have noted) is on Capitol Hill and within the US public. I would urge you to give Senator Feinstein's office a call and suggest that, should she not reconsider her position on this matter, it will damage her credibility and perhaps even open her to a primary challenge.

I'll be dropping a line to my representatives this weekend.
+Antoni Norman Do you have any evidence to support your Chinese reporter execution story? It sounds suspiciously like a mangled retelling of a case where Chinese journalists were imprisoned after Yahoo! handed over their mail to the Chinese government to comply with Chinese law. Yahoo! is now shutting down Yahoo! Mail in China.
+Yonatan Zunger Overall, I've appreciated the rapid response of Google and several of the other companies whose cooperation was implied by both the #PRISM presentation and following articles. The vigorous commitment to user data security is encouraging.
This can't be an easy day for anyone at Google. Thank you for taking the time to carefully explain your thoughts and knowledge.

It's Google's reluctance to share information with legal entities that I've long admired. While I have nothing really to hide, I do like feeling secure in my privacy.
Thank you. 
+Devesh Parekh trying to find the info. But you are right. Yahoo was involved but so was Google. This happened around 2009-2010.

Google wanted to get into the Chinese Market. They bent over backwards to accommodate their laws. They even removed all search results for Tiananmen Square 1989.

But like I said. I want to see evidences for the Prism scandal/Watergate. I am finding it hard to believe Google would make the same mistake twice.
+Scot Stevenson Those slides are probably fake.  Look at the cost - $20M/year for something of that massive scale?  I don't think so.  Also, not a single item of slide content was partmarked properly, which it would have been if that had been real classified material.
We read one story in the Guardian that says Verizon has given up massive amounts of 'meta' data.
The President says that they have gotten 'meta' data.
The Atlantic says it could be argued that it is legally done through FISA and the Patriot Act. 
All the telecommunication companies deny that anything on this massive of a scale has been done, including Verizon.
EDIT: It seems to be only the internet companies that are saying they did not hand over information, not telecommunication companies.
What is the real story?
+Matt Harmon +1 to dropping a line to your representatives.

AFAIK there has never been any set of "outside contractors" installing devices in our datacenters -- and as I said in my post, I would have very likely come across such things, at least briefly, if they had. And even though I couldn't say anything about it, most likely, I could, and would, most definitely tender my resignation if I had. 
I trust Google to protect my personal data honestly. But if I had any doubt's before on these allegations, they've been quashed by +Yonatan Zunger

You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
+Antoni Norman The removal of searches for Tiananmen is something different: that has to do with the Great Firewall. The Chinese government mandates that all searches be filtered, so we had a choice: either run our servers outside of China, where the government does the filtering, or run some inside China, where we have to comply with their "filtering" laws, but we can at least get away with telling people that results are being removed -- something that doesn't happen when the government filters things. 

We did that for a few years, on the theory that this gave us a real chance to engage and give the Chinese people more access to information than they would have otherwise. But as the Chinese government's demands kept increasing, and [REDACTED], we finally decided that this wasn't worth it and shut the whole enterprise down. Something else I'm glad about.
If there is anything I like about G+ it's that Googlers are using it as a platform to engage the public. +Yonatan Zunger The scepticism will never end, whether you find that comforting or disturbing is up to you but I think it's healthy.
Ryan R
"Whatever the NSA was doing involving the mass harvesting of information, it did not involve being on the inside of Google."

How can you say that with certainty,+Yonatan Zunger? Google has over 50,000 employees. I was a full-time employee for 5 years, working in a Google datacenter. I can assure you, you don't know everything that's happening inside an organization of that size. The footprint of the datacenters and the network is also unfathomably large.

Do you think, if this type of program was a reality, you would be told about it? Isn't it possible that those who might know are legally obligated to deny the existence of such programs?
My guess is that this is a development of a system that was originally developed for use in anti-terrorism in Northern Ireland. That system monitored conversations, not by tapping phone lines, but by listening to bandwidth on power lines. That system did not require the assistance of any service provider and is, as a consequence, outside any existing legislative framework. The problem with that system was the amount of computing power needed to sift through all the data was beyond anything then available. Times have changed and the availability of computing power has increased exponentially.
+Ryan R I have various reasons to believe that the odds that I would have known about it are higher than those for most employees -- but it still wouldn't be a certainty. That said, the odds are good enough that I would be fairly surprised, and rather furious, to find out that such a thing had been happening without my knowledge.
+Yonatan Zunger - You've read your John LeCarre, I suppose. You may have an NSA doppelgänger about whom you (and nearly everyone else) does not know about.

But more than likely, it is just a straight up tap and packet reassembly when it passes through NSA switches.

Edit: Also, know that I do not doubt your or Google's commitment to the protection of user data. Nor do I doubt your statements here.

I just have this view about NSA because I've been following the organization since I was about 12 or so and I would be absolutely unsurprised to find that they were running organizations within all of the major cloud providers and probably without the knowledge or consent of those providers. If CIA can penetrate the FSB then a private company, without that sort of national government class counter intelligence operation, would be trivial. And while CIA and NSA rarely work together in the field, the Patriot Act was unprecedented and it explicitly greater cooperation.
Ryan R
+Yonatan Zunger, I really hope you're right, but as Ben Treynor used to say, "hope is not a strategy." I would like to say more here, but it's not the right venue.
+Gary Ray R I'd like to read Verizon's and the other telcos' denials you mentioned. I haven't seen them anywhere. Do you have a link?
Good to hear.
Now what about this new porn/general salacious product?
Oh, business model you say? That's right, nm.
With respect, you don't need moles etc within an organisation. Technology has moved way beyond that.
Question:  Are you talking about PRISM (the story broken by the Washington Post) or the Verizon pen register warrant (the story broken by Greenwald)?  It sounds like you are confusing these.
+M Monica +Matt Harmon I have my own suspicions -- which I won't go into here -- about what PRISM was actually about. I'll just say that there are ways to intercept people's Google, Facebook, etc., traffic in bulk without sticking any moles into the org -- or directly tapping their lines. You may find some interesting hints in the leaked PRISM slides, , especially the second and fourth ones shown there. The subtleties of phrasing are important, I suspect, not because they were trying to be elliptical but because they reveal what was obvious to the people who were giving that presentation. 
Question #2:  The Times of India, and several other newspapers globally is reporting that Director of National Intelligence has confirmed the access.  Are you being politically targetted with these accusations?  Do they have access behind your back?  Or are they simple confused about their capabilities?
(Also, the NSA isn't famous for its HUMINT capabilities; it's a SIGINT org in its heart. Inserting moles is a tricky business.)
+Chris Travers I'm talking about PRISM, in particular, since that's the one that had Google on it. The Verizon pen register warrant is something different, but not unrelated. (And BTW, Greenwald actually broke both of those stories)
+Ryan R While it's true that no one individual knows everything that's going on in an organization the size of Google, it's also true that each level of our technology stack has a lot of engineers who are deeply familiar with how it works. I find it virtually impossible to believe that a secret backdoor of any kind could be kept a secret, and that its side effects (in terms of extra network bandwidth, unexpected CPU loads, etc) could be hidden from all of the engineers who are constantly monitoring our systems.
+M Monica No, no I wouldn't. But the particular kind of collaboration that would be needed to pull that off would happen to rub against a couple of the worst organizational weaknesses in several involved orgs; I would be fairly impressed, if nothing else, if they managed to pull that off. 

And like I said, I have both some reason to believe that there aren't such devices inside Google, and that the PRISM slides are actually talking about a somewhat different kind of data collection -- one that's done from outside the companies.
Frankly, I'd look more closely at network and "backbone" type carriers.
I wonder if PRISM leverages non-https data. It's not ubiquitous yet. Is it possible most of this PRISM was reliant on the time when HTTPS wasn't forced?
+Antoni Norman Google would not have to deny that it was part of PRISM. It would be unable to confirm, but unless they literally have a duty-to-deny contract, a gag order would not require them to make specific denials.
+Isaac Cambron If at any point I feel that I'm working for a company whose behavior I can't justify both to myself and to the public with a straight face, that's the day I stop working for that company. I'm still working here because I do have a very deep faith that we do things right: not just faith in Larry, but faith in my colleagues and their communal sense of ethics, and in our mutual determination to protect the rights, the lives, and the privacy of our users. 
+Devesh Parekh
 You are correct. I thought I saw that Verizon denied the scope of the data the government went after.  But I can't find it now. I'm gonna edit that comment.
 it was The Major Internet companies mentioned in the slides that denied turning over massive 'meta' data

But still congress, and the president both say it does happen. But always within the 'legal' boundaries set up.   It seems to be the size of the boundaries that is in question.
+Matt Harmon Google can't, uh, really let outside contractors into its datacenters. Much about how Google datacenters work (savings on power, f. inst) isn't patentable, which leaves trade secrets the only effective means of keeping competitors from getting their hands on it.
+Yonatan Zunger, any thoughts on the NYTimes writeup?  Hmmm...
 “The U.S. government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” Google’s chief executive, Larry Page, and its chief legal officer, David Drummond, said in a statement on Friday. “We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law.”

Statements from Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, AOL and Paltalk made the same distinction.

But instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations said. Facebook, for instance, built such a system for requesting and sharing the information, they said.

The data shared in these ways, the people said, is shared after company lawyers have reviewed the FISA request according to company practice. It is not sent automatically or in bulk, and the government does not have full access to company servers. Instead, they said, it is a more secure and efficient way to hand over the data.

Tech companies might have also denied knowledge of the full scope of cooperation with national security officials because employees whose job it is to comply with FISA requests are not allowed to discuss the details even with others at the company, and in some cases have national security clearance, according to both a former senior government official and a lawyer representing a technology company....
If NSA is snarfing Google info outside of Google, e.g the telco via a Room 641A type op, then it would mean that someone at Google gave up the SSL keys.
+Andreas Schou Yes, Google builds their own server computers, their own networking equipment, etc, it's all custom, Google barely uses any off-the-shelf HW or SW internally. We dogfood our own versions of everything.

The NSA would have to use HUMINT, and even then, it is hard to crack Google infrastructure. Google employees can't just willy-nilly go lookup anyone's data. For example, even if you are engineer working on GMail itself, you won't be able to access any email data except your own. Google employees are not "super users" that can see everything. That's how seriously Google takes the security of user's private data. 
+M Monica Believe me that I'm very aware that this is not our only threat. And that's all I'm going to say about that. 
+Yonatan Zunger In any case, if there isn't something which allows taps, then the source for two major media organizations is lying outright. (Although I am very suspicious of the Guardian's redaction of most of the slides. What, I'm supposed to believe that the Guardian actually cares about American operational security?)

While I would not be surprised if Glenn Greenwald went ahead on a very thinly sourced story like this, a couple of the contributors -- James Ball, particularly -- have the sort of technical backgrounds and connections which make me trust them a fair amount to do the legwork, even as I also understand their ideological background.  
+Michael Comia The NYT article touches on a number of things which I can't comment about, but I'll say that in every such matter that I'm familiar with, ethical standards were upheld which I would not feel embarrassed about in the least if the entire details were to be made public. 
+Andreas Schou, +Yonatan Zunger - Well, it doesn't look like they needed people on the inside:

Also, see +Michael Comia's post.

And you're right...CIA and NSA collaboration to insert someone would be a historic anomaly, but given the unprecedented nature of the Patriot Act, no longer inconceivable in my mind. Also, you could build your own intelligence network inside the company.

When agencies that typically target foreign nations are given the authority to play domestically as well, basically nothing is off the table.
+Yonatan Zunger That's all to the good, but it doesn't answer the question. I was hoping you'd commit to something stronger, like "If I get strong evidence that we're knowingly involved in this PRISM stuff, then I will quit." You don't personally owe me that, obviously, but I'd love to hear that kind of explicit commitment rather than some generalities.
+Isaac Cambron - With respect, I think he has committed to that. Also, we're better off pressuring Congress on this matter, since even if +Yonatan Zunger left, the law would remain.
ECHELON is a name used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UKUSA Security Agreement[1] (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, referred to by a number of abbreviations, including AUSCANNZUKUS[1] and Five Eyes).[2][3] It has also been described as the only software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications.[4]
ECHELON was reportedly[by whom?] created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War in the early 1960s.[citation needed]
The system has been reported in a number of public sources.[5] Its capabilities and political implications were investigated by a committee of the European Parliament during 2000 and 2001 with a report published in 2001,[6] and by author James Bamford in his books on the National Security Agency of the United States.[4] The European Parliament stated in its report that the term ECHELON is used in a number of contexts, but that the evidence presented indicates that it was the name for a signals intelligence collection system. The report concludes that, on the basis of information presented, ECHELON was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (which once carried most Internet traffic) and microwave links.[6]
Bamford describes the system as the software controlling the collection and distribution of civilian telecommunications traffic conveyed using communication satellites, with the collection being undertaken by ground stations located in the footprint of the downlink leg.
Ryan R
+Andreas Schou you've clearly never worked inside a Google datacenter. ;) Your claim is false... the datacenters are swarming with contractors.
+Isaac Cambron Not knowing very much about what PRISM actually is -- I've seen a total of four slides out of a deck -- I can't make that strong a statement. But what I said goes to the heart of any decision I would ever make about such an issue. When you work on something as powerful and central as the core of people's communications and data management, your ethics have to be something you can be proud of. 
+Yonatan Zunger While I don't have a totally unqualified belief in the story,, a system which doesn't access packets in flight leaves unexplained NSA fiber-splitters at AT&T and an unelucidated NSA program which allows access to data at major tech companies.

That's two unexplained things which explain each other, which is, for those of us outside the bubble and who like explaining things and are concerned about privacy, two dots which remain uncomfortably unconnected.
+Ryan R +Andreas Schou The datacenters are, indeed, full of contractors -- but installing taps without anybody noticing would be rather challenging, to say the least. The sort of taps you would need on the lines of a datacenter aren't small, easily-concealable sorts of items; they look like (many) racks of computers. Or like significant chunks of code running on each of the individual machines. 
+Yonatan Zunger And I"ll assume that's all you have to say about that.

And that the thing you're not saying is that insofar as packets addressed to foreign-looking places end up in the hands of the NSA, it's not immediately upstream from Google, but rather further upstream.
+Andreas Schou - After the Patriot Act, the destination became legally irrelevant. The Verizon FISA disclosure explicitly authorized domestic interception.
I'm going to quote a bit of my essay in this great thread, in the way of offering what I think is a minority perspective on the debate

The two majority positions I see are, first, outrage at the violation and intrusion into our private lives; at the wanton disregard for law and justice; at the absolute corruption of power. And second, I see cynicism following the apparent death of a once-sacred value. “Privacy is dead,” they shout like Nietzschean harbingers relishing in the nihilism of a transitional age. “Get over it!”

Although I have far more sympathy with the first position, my own reaction is not really captured by either. Instead, my reaction was pragmatic: of course they are acquiring this data, it’s the only way they could have any idea what’s going on. Asking the government to secure the state’s domestic interests without access to major telecommunications channels would be like asking the LHC to find the Higgs boson with a shovel. If they weren’t inspecting this data they would be worse than blind; they would be utterly confused. That’s not to say that the ends justify the means; I’m only saying “that’s how it’s done.” If you want to find and predict potential security risks, you need to know the patterns of activity in lots and lots of individuals in order to build models where the potentially dangerous deviations become salient. Asking the NSA to do without this data is essentially asking them not to do their job.

The procedural way of dealing with a situation like this would be for the government to educate the public on the changing times and its new security demands, with the hopes of passing democratic legislation whereby these procedures were folded into standard operating practices, with proper oversight and all that. But of course that would never work for a billion reasons (most important of which is our system does not work), and so the most effective method of doing their jobs is simply to muscle the information illegally and try to deal with the political blowback when it happens. From their perspective, one must hope that the public outrage is drowned out by the cynical nihilists.
+Andreas Schou There are well known cases of foreign man-in-the-middle attacks on DNS servers and SSL certificates. Google itself has sent out a few advisories. 
I just realized that the phrase joined the program was injected into the story by Washington Post. Nothing on the slides themselves actually indicates that the companies listed are cooperating voluntarily, or are actually aware of the program. In fact it is noted that Apple was "added" not that Apple joined, in Oct 2012.
Why would they go into all the data centers anyway? It would be much more efficient and easier to manage by tapping the backbones.
+Matt Harmon That's... not actually true. The Verizon FISA disclosure was of information (pen register data) which is not even constitutionally sensitive. 

Why that's the case, I'll write about on Monday. (It has to do with actual pens, telegraphs, things written on the outside of envelopes, and a whole bunch of shit that has nothing to do with the modern world.)
Ryan R
+Alasdair Mackintosh that's a fair and compelling argument against some type of software-layer backdoor.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that some rogue contractor installed taps or backdoors in the DC. It obviously doesn't work like that. I was just suggesting, as a lone Google employee, you can't claim you know everything going on inside the organization.

The AT&T / Mark Klein narrative of tapping the backbones (peering points) is perhaps the best explanation for all this. After re-reading the slides, I can sort of twist them to fit that narrative. It also fits the carefully crafted PR statements from today that mention "no direct access".
+Lisa Borel Except that you can't guarantee that all the routing is going to go past where you're watching, and ... well, hm.

I assumed this was harder, naively, but is getting the data all to the same place even if you're picking it up from multiple places in the stream actually much of a problem? It doesn't actually seem like it would be.
+Ryan R Also, note that one of the primary leads on this story was Glenn Greenwald. He tends to be pretty scrupulous about things which laypeople can fact-check, but he is shockingly, shockingly dishonest in his interpretation of the law, especially about technical points. 

As I'm a lawyer -- even as a pretty strict civil libertarian -- I would not trust him as far as I could throw his book. And as someone who's read his book, that's not particularly far.
(I suppose the reporters could be wrong too, but things are not adding up in these denials and just curious about getting to the bottom of it).
This NYT article ( now says PRISM is really just a way for companies to create a dead drop to copy the data requested to so it can be picked up when a request comes in that they are compelled to obey.

This is a far far cry from the idea of a firehose feed to all data or indiscriminate ad-hoc querying.

Can Greenwald be holding onto slides which would have reduced the drama if the public knew that it was a relatively boring  intranet app for managing national security letter requests and pulling in data from a NSA dropbox folder when it is deposited?
Speculation on my part, but the fact that they talk about the path traffic takes leads me to believe they could be injecting routes and similar methods.
+Andreas Schou - You're right about the address data. But my contention is that after the Patriot Act, domestic interception of content became de facto legal.

There's a large body of evidence that suggests that the firewalls that existed prior to the Patriot Act no longer exist. There have been lots of people retiring and resigning from NSA - both at the operational and policy levels - who have been disclosing that NSA has been tasked with domestic interception since the Patriot Act was passed.

Perhaps I overreach when I say that legally the distinction no longer exists. But NSA has been pretty much ordered to behave as if it doesn't. Or is that huge facility they're building out in the middle of nowhere in Utah just for show?

Obviously, I'm not legally competent to even argue this in a court and I'll concede that willingly. But based on the understanding I have of the original charter for NSA and what happened during the Nixon administration and then the restraints put in after the Church Committee hearings, the Patriot Act was a departure from NSA's "traditional" role.
+Matt Harmon After the FAA. The Patriot Act didn't much change the status quo, as far as that goes.
+Ray Cromwell it seems that there are various things going on, some of which the companies know about and cooperate with -- e.g. "lawful, specific orders" -- and some that perhaps they don't.

It is going to be very important in the days ahead to understand where this Powerpoint came from, what the rest of the slides say, and -- most important -- why we should believe it is authentic and true.
We are continually told how terrorism and 9/11 in particular was a game changer. Why is it that the origins of these surveillance programmes pre-date the game changing terrorist events? They didn't prevent those events from happening and could not have been very effective.
+Andreas Schou Is delivery format legally mandated? Like, if the NSA asked for all of joeschmoe's email, could a company print it out in large type using Comic Sans on thousands of sheets of paper and mail it via the post office?
+Brian Titus Also, note that there are two different sets of the same slides. The green arrow on the joined-date slide is different in the Guardian's and the Washington Post's versions of the slide. Why is that the case? 

No idea, though it really doesn't like it resulted from changing the dimensions of the picture.
+Jonathan Brown We know the NSA was interested in domestic interception in the 90s. See the Clipper Chip fiasco.
+Ray Cromwell "Don't be an asshole, or face sanctions" is a general rule in all evidentiary issues. So, yes.
+Brian Titus In broad terms, we know the PRISM leak is true because DNI Clapper more or less confirmed it (separate from the VZ disclosure).
+Andreas Schou - You are, of course, correct. I contend, however, that the programs began around the same time and were grandfathered in by the later laws.
+Andreas Schou it could be that they have an actual .ppt file, and the rendering on different machines, versions, etc. is messing with that arrow. It looks like the rest of the content is identical.
And yet by discontinuing xmpp support in Google Chats, you make it harder for individuals to use plugins like OTR to encrypt their communications. If you don't want to rebuild the Stasi archives, you can prove it by building an open source end to end encryption solution into Google hangouts. SSL is not enough.
Do you give your data to a third party, someone like Palantir, who then gives it to the government?
+Yonatan Zunger Very interesting explanation of the Google ad presentation philosophy.  That's pretty much exactly what I've suggested myself, so ... I'm reasonably happy at having stumbled across the same principle on my own.  There are those who suggest (+Don Marti hits this point) that indiscriminate brand-awareness advertising has its place.
My larger frustration when I'm in a highly intentional mode (rare, but these can be modestly high-ticket items when I am) is that the available / searchable product information is often sadly lacking.  And at these points, I'd really like some way to pretty much full-on have a conversation with Google's ad server saying "absolutely not like this" and "yeah, this is kind of the idea, but match this specific criterion".
Another very-cool-to-have would be providing a SKU or product code from an item I have and like (often clothing items -- present "fast-fashion" means my old strategy of finding a brand and item I like and purchasing that without having to reassess for 5-10 years no longer works -- or maybe 5-10 years are passing faster than they used to) ... and having Google return that item (or something really close to it).  Again with the option to "converse" to find something more appropriate among close matches.
Set up something like that and I might even write another mash note.
Another cool feature, thinking of how local vendors can compete with online (particularly, say, a large online retail site who competes with Google in some regards) would be to find ways of matching Google user shopping interests with local merchant inventories.  Probably a, oh, really freaking major project, but if you could figure this one out and I could support local merchants (with the option to special-order as needed, which I'm willing to do, especially if I can walk into the shop and pick up an item rather than play Fed UPS delivery bingo) would be, oh, vaguely awesome.  Maybe even a bid system.  Would require an inventory API of some sort.
I'd like to believe you.  I'm trying to reconcile this with what you are saying:
[ When asked during an interview for CNBC's recent "Inside the Mind of Google" special about whether users should be sharing information with Google as if it were a "trusted friend," Schmidt responded, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." ]
+Yonatan Zunger Can you confirm that Google has /not/ shared its TLS/SSL certificates with any government, government contractor, government agent, etc.?
I am half tempted to get back on the mailing list for the secured jobs just to see what kind of listings there are for this data mining adventure (boondoggle).

To think that the NSA cares about getting the complete conversation is, I daresay, pollyanna-ish. That would presume they care about building a legal case that fits somewhat within the constraints of the judicial system. Hello?this whole investigation starts off without need of a warrant. Everything else related to due process is likely out the window as well.
+Justin Crites It's very hard to prove a negative, and Yonatan could very well not be in a position to know.  Frequent key rotation (and dismissing CAs) could well help.
+Yonatan Zunger Thanks for replying. I don't use this tool often, so it looks like I double-posted this question to you publicly. (I meant to send it only once.)

But you do realize that if Google shared its SSL/TLS key with the NSA, that would be nearly equivalent to providing direct access? (Assuming the NSA has the capability to store the data, and sift through it - a capability it is reasonable to believe they have.)
I imagine that a top secret NSA program would not be public knowledge to the employees at Google. Eric Schmidt has been getting pretty cozy with government officials as of late, perhaps he arranged something in private :)
Interesting commentary, from Google that is. Considering the most unintelligible response to give was that Google Corporation was unaware what was happening. The point of intelligence gathering is to give the impression, for which the "mark" is unaware of such gathering; hmmm... sort of like the response from individuals around the world, in the wake of this leak. So allow me to be the voice of enlightenment.

First, NSA doesn't need to "lie" about anything, as that administration has the executive and congressional authority to do in this country as it pleases. Second, if "you" knew any specific details, you wouldn't be pondering the issue. Beyond that, your profile probably revealed such characteristic flaws incapable of grasping the scope this "security net." In essence you're "soft" as that "response."

Google owns nothing! The data centers are vulnerable to any intelligence gathering operations authorized by the United States Federal Government without Google's permission. Quite frankly Google, what part of the NSA needs your permission! The internet is government property, not yours (Google). So, it seems that as long as a corporation uses data centers and "lay in bed" with the federal government, such expectancy of "plausible deniability" will occur when the leaks happen.

Funny Google, as such a corporation would think of sacrificing its federal security clearances on a whim of morality. Rather absurd, but I will give Google credit, for fearing the United States Federal Government in its ability to demonstrate, that as a corporation (Google), it made you (Google) into a corporation as it is and it can erase you (Google), as a corporation with and without your permission!
Having to correct the media should not have to be a full time job.
+Bobby Abraham An intentional backdoor would likely be doable without detection. The prospect of setting up a firehose feed of everything that passes through Google, but which is undetectable?

That seems basically impossible -- it would expose relevant parts of the infrastructure to people who could not be trusted with the information (viz., all but a very small proportion of people with an intelligence mindset.)
Looks like Alex Jones listeners have arrived in the thread.
The Guardian on the discrepancy:

It mentions the ACLU being skeptical that the NSA would have even attempted to do this without the full cooperation of the tech companies involved. Either the tech companies are outright lying, or this power-point was a gross exaggeration of what was actually implemented. Obama confirming the existence of the program makes this all the more confusing. 
+Yonatan Zunger Thanks for adding your input into this subject.  There's a lot more skepticism when CEOs and legal teams are able to deny involvement in PRISM, since they're more disconnected from the actual practice of managing personal information.  Hearing this from you definitely changes my opinion of what's likely going on.  

However, the ability for the NSA to demand such data and the ability for them to demand secrecy means that we have no way to be sure that they aren't using those abilities for the wrong purposes.  We just don't know what's going on at the NSA except what little is being leaked.  This is particularly troubling, and it undermines the trust we place in the companies that manage our personal information, as you've witnessed here.  

I think that it is important for Google and the other companies named in the PRISM documents to share with Congress how the NSA's overabundance of secrecy is hurting these businesses.  We really need some oversight over their actions, or else we'll never know.  
+Yonatan Zunger 

I understand that you may not know the answer. Yet it seems you care very much about user privacy:

> I would no longer be working at Google [but for] the fact that we do stand up for individual users' privacy

Will you be willing to find out whether Google has shared its SSL/TLS keys for public sites with government agencies? As a person interested in user privacy, I imagine this will be as of much interest as whether they have direct access to the data.

As you mentioned, direct access would require Google to build something. Intercepting SSL/TLS traffic would not.

If Google shared its SSL keys, then the NSA can intercept all inbound and outbound traffic, and would be able to capture virtually all Google user data. They can store the data and search it. They wouldn't particularly even benefit from direct access to Google's data, if they intercept all of it, can decode the particular applications involved, and plan to store all of it themselves.

I would be great to hear an affirmation from Google that it has not shared its encryption keys with governments.

+Edward Morbius You're right, certificates could be compromised upstream. However, the question is whether Google shared its credentials. I am sure that Google users would be comforted to hear that Google's SSL/TLS keys have not been shared.
+Justin Crites While I certainly can't claim to know all the specifics, my general suspicion is that it would be very, very unlawful to tell Yonatan in particular anything about any intentional compromise of the certificates;.
Some vague, low-tech looking Power Point slides carelessly thrown together by a government bureaucrat.     Hacking into Google?    I doubt it.   Even a claim to have gotten inside Google is absent from the picture, especially once you separate out what was merely aspirational from what was actually accomplished.     
+Bobby Abraham Or the .ppt has been substantially redacted to change its meaning. I trust Ball not to do this, but I absolutely do not trust Greenwald. 
Consider the following logical fallacy: I have directly met many people in my town.    George lives in my town.   Therefore I must have directly met George.   Logic fail.  
I saw your post and while I'd love to believe you I cannot help but think that something of this sort would be obviously done on a need-to-know basis and a whole lot of people weren't in THAT little circle, yourself included.

The official denials from CEOs do not map cleanly to the government's actual story as it emerges.  We already know that courts can order silence on these matters. 

Also this just went up:

This concerns me greatly because, as an international user, NO REQUEST is apparently needed.  That's one part that gets me - even if the NSA is somehow avoiding spying on US citizens - it is open season to suspect us all, where that is the rest of the world.  I don't see the reason to continue using US based services in the long run.

If anything they could have performed a packet capture on the same network segment, capturing the unencrypted traffic. Though the amount of disk space required would be significant to store that amount of output would be exceptional. I suspect this is a story released to focus us away from the real concern going on.
Oh. Consider this change to the WaPo article:

In another classified report obtained by The Post, the arrangement is described as allowing “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” rather than directly to company servers.

That appears to confirm that Prism is just a front-end for submitting data requests for review to Google. The Guardian also mentions a second program -- named "Upstream" -- which intercepts transmissions in flight. That would explain both the cost discrepancy ($20m for the whole program?) and the fiber taps at AT&T.
+Andreas Schou That would be an odd thing for any of the reporters involved to do, especially given the confirmed Verizon scoop they had just one day before. Why risk destroying your credibility with a distortion when you've already exposed something extremely controversial? 
The more I read, the less I believe those slides were even legit.
Given how large Google datacenters are and how many they have, there's no such thing as a single network segment. This gets into the territory of thinking the Twin Towers were prepped for detonation with squibs drilled into support beams, all the while thousands of people were working there.

Hollywood movies like Die Hard 4, Entrapment, et al, have given the idea to the general populace that all roads lead to Rome, and that there's always a secret master room where everything flows through, and all you need to do is break in and plug in an ethernet jack using Catherine Zeta Jones or Bruce Willis to bypass physical security.
+Joe Lancaster I... suspect the slides were legit or legit-ish. The existence of a program, if not its particulars, were confirmed by Clapper and Obama.

As for taking a tortured reading of the slides... well, that's Greenwald's modus operandi. I've more or less given up fact-checking his reporting on the present state of US law; he's perfectly fine if you want to get a survey of what to be angry about, but his explanations of why, what is responsible, and who is responsible are advocacy, not journalism, and will usually seriously misinform you.
There's a whole lot of over-reaching interpretation going on too.   The Washington Post describes the ramp slide by saying the dates "show when each company joined" PRISM.    "Joined"?   Um, no.   The dates say that's when PRISM started gathering some kind of (what kind of?) data that in some way pertained to those companies.     For all the SLIDE says, it was a summer intern reading the public posts off public Facebook Walls.   They're called "providers," but "providers" of what, to whom?   Internet service providers?     
+Ray Cromwell, not to mention that most of us use ssl encryption for our connections.  It'd be so little useful data, even if you had a way to aggregate the data across multiple networks.  I really can't see how this is a real threat. 
I just find it very sick. The reality is, as it has always been, that the defence of any country is about the self-preservation of the government with a complete disregard for the people. It is the ego and arrogance of these so-called leaders and their sycophantic acolytes who see themselves as so much more important than anyone else. In the process of protecting themselves they are destroying the fabric of their respective countries. For each terrorist attack that is foiled, how many foreign terrorists and home grown, disaffected bombers and shooters are recruited by the actions of government, abroad and at home?
In 1982 President Ronald Reagan said: "Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability." One of the freedom fighters that Reagan was referring to was Osama bin Laden.
+Ray Cromwell That's a neat Chrome feature and protocol. I wasn't aware of that. Are you aware of any resources that discuss how it works in greater detail?

However, there are still a lot of other browsers out there :-)
+Peter da Silva As a lawyer, my feeling on the subject is that both statements were reviewed (in Larry's case, co-drafted by, publicly) by legal counsel in order to avoid disclosure of classified or otherwise gagged information and to avoid otherwise stepping on the law, and that because the way counsel designed it was shaped by the same forces, you get similar language.

This happens regularly when drafting comment about legally-sensitive matters, which this is. However, it's intentionally hard to say what they're avoiding stepping on: if it were easy, then they'd be saying it, not not saying it.
+Kyle Maxwell My interpretation of the cheapest path bullet on the second slide is that they would like to make it cheaper for data to travel from Europe through America to Africa than directly from Europe to Africa. Ditto for every other link. Presumably one could extrapolate that to not just internet backbone pieces in US/Canada as represented on the slide but also in any of the five eyes (US, UK, AUS, NZ, CAN), e.g. make Russian traffic to Syria get there faster if it goes via the UK (or even the US), copy it, and analyze it later.
The use of the words "direct" and "directly" are the but in this equation. Has anyone at Google or Facebook said that the US government has no access, period?
This is soooooooooo good, and I believe you.
+Yonatan Zunger Your thought-out comments & observations together with the official statement issued by Larry Page and David Drummond certainly go quite some way in restoring Google's credibility and assuage concerns about the privacy & security millions of its users can come to expect.
As you may have seen, despite these statements, +The New York Times maintains that while 'back door entries' may not have been granted, 'locked boxes' were erected for much the same purpose. If this isn't true either, shouldn't there be a response to this NYT article?
My understanding is that the NSA is looking at patterns of communications rather than the specific detail. Of course governments have direct access to data, provided the appropriate legal processes and requirements are fulfilled. 
+Raja Mitra My suspicion is that it would be illegal to comment on the lockboxes, considering that they are most likely used for delivery of the subject matter of a NSL.
+William Pollock They can't say that because it wouldn't be true. The government does have access, at the very least via the same old regular warrants and such they had access to fifty years ago. They've got better (for them) tools now, of course.

No company could say that the government has no access unless they themselves also have no access. That is true for some smaller intensely user-privacy-focused companies, but not for any of these super-huge ones.
+William Pollock My theory is that the companies participating in this program (and they may legitimately not have known about the term Prism, but may have participated nonetheless) have shared their SSL/TLS certificates with the government, such that agencies can intercept even encrypted communication inbound/inbound. The NSA intercepts their data, understands the specific application protocols involved, and builds up data sets within the NSA with structure specific to each of the products offered by the companies.

I wrote up this concept in a bit more detail here:
+Raja Mitra The NYTimes article states that companies were asked to erect "locked boxes" and that Facebook created such a system. It doesn't mention anything about Google. The article also goes on to say that even in the "locked box" arrangement company lawyers review FISA requests on a case by case basis rather than in bulk. Google has already established a website that provides information on the number of government request for user data or content removal.
+Garmon Estes Except the FISA requests are secret and can't legally be shown on things like Google's Transparency Report.
"If these companies received an order under the FISA Amendments Act, they are Forbidden by law from disclosing having received the order and disclosing any information about the order at all," Mark Rumold, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told ABC News.
+Mark Cummins Correct, but Google has published a numerical range of National Security Letters by year. For the past few years, that number has been less than 1,000 NSL data requests per year. 
If what you say is indeed true, I think you and/or google should investigate this further. Here are some thoughts/points:

a) I agree that if you/google had no knowledge about this, the way the data is/was acquired is probably by monitoring your internal and/or external IP transits. The way to combat this would essentially be to SSL encrypt all browser and application traffic. And perhaps even to consider becoming your own root CA so users can choose which root CA's to trust in a better way.

b) At this time, the US govt confirms the existence of this program. While you/google deny knowing anything of it. The best way of resolving this trust issue would be to investigate yourself how this was done. And if you/google/other employees are restricted by a gag order, now would be a convenient time to anonymously leak your knowledge/findings.
You can't prove a negative. The problem with the spooks is, if Google does a complete investigation, finds nothing, changes all it's SSL certificates, replaces all of it's networking equipment, it still wouldn't satisfy folks. There's always be this doubt that because some spooks said so, they must have some magical mojo.

I've seen people speculating that they can break public key cryptography, that they's got magical quantum computer factoring machines, the sky's the limit. The imagination runs wild when everything is secret.
+Andrew Dodd That was my reaction.  TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN seemed a remarkable low classification for a project that effectively tore up the constitution.  Had it only been working on communications between parties all of whom were both outside the US and were not US citizens it might be different, but with one of the parties to a communication being a US citizen it's clearly unconstitutional.  

The potential of the project to cause major problems with US allies also makes it incredibly sensitive --- the obvious conclusion that it's been being used under the UKUSA agreement to bypass UK legal protections for UK citizens has already caused the main intelligence committee of Parliament to summon the head of GCHQ, and given the renewed focus on intercept following the Woolwich killing it will be a major political issue.

With a tiny budget ($20m?  So, a rack in a data centre and a couple of members of staff?) and not even SCI compartmentalisation?  Either the slides are fake or, more probably, an unwise NSA middle-manager has decided to big up their rather less wide-ranging project and paid the price for it.
+ian batten Well, it depends

If you want to give PRISM's front-end access to the linguists at NSA (and this really doesn't look like a presentation for technical staff) you really can't classify it much higher than that. I guess you could run a bazillion SCI interviews for it, but then you've just raised everyone at Fort Meade's clearance and have to give them regular polygraphs.

If it's as widely used as it claims, it would be extraordinarily unwieldy to put it under another level of classification. 

As for the 'tears up the Constitution' part, it may be that this sort of thing is the subject matter of In Re Sealed Case, and is authorized by the FAA. Furthermore, because there's no effective appellate route from the FISA appellate court to the Supreme Court (the government can just decline to appeal in order to shield the ruling), it's possible that it would always remain in a gray area.
+ian batten TOP SECRET // SI is a secure compartmentalized information classification -- it's essentially the highest level of classification. "SI" is "special intelligence," the intel community's subset of the SCI space. NOFORN means it's not for release even to allies. This is roughly the same sort of classification used for nuclear secrets. 

This doesn't have a subcompartment specified, so anyone with TS clearance who's vetted for special intelligence can see it. That should cover most of the relevant NSA employees.
+Yonatan Zunger That's still basically everyone at NSA, isn't it? I... obviously haven't read a lot of classified NSA documents, but I would have expected a three-letter compartment code if it were compartmentalized further than the general SIGINT classification.  
+Andreas Schou I believe so; it's the sort of classification you would give to a primer document about a highly secret subject. The analogue would be the intro to modern thermonuclear weapons design that new people in that particular business get when they first show up at LANL.
Perhaps it's further restricted by "need to know". I could imagine there's plenty of analysts at the CIA and NSA who don't need to know how the information was captured, just its content.
+Edward Morbius No. The CA does not (generally) have access to the end entity private keys, and thus can't compromise them. Any trusted CA (and there are many) can issue fake certificates, that can be used for man-in-the-middle-attacks, but not for general wiretapping - see the Diginotar incident, where an intruder managed to generate fake Google certificates. But even if that happens, browsers like Chrome would scream bloody murder on seeing unexpected Google certificates. That was actually how the Diginotar incident was discovered.
+Ray Cromwell All classified material is really "need to know," especially anything in a compartment. 
Sorry to ask a dumb question, but can you guys tell me as plainly as possible what kind of personal (as opposed to publicly available) data was stolen, how widely and how much it affected even us non-US citizens?
As the NSA's sample size approaches infinity their predictive capacity approaches zero. Rev. T. Bayes is looking down from his probabilistic heaven and laughing his backside off. 
+Yonatan Zunger True, information has both content, and provenance, and I could easily see one being cleared to get information through a system, without knowing how the system works. I wouldn't expect the entire NSA to have to know about PRISM.

The NSA usually zealously guards their sources, going all the way back to WW2 (of course, it wasn't called the NSA then), because leaking the source effectively blinds one of their eyes. That's why a leak of a carte-blanche system that has backdoors into everything, if true, would be the most secret information of all, and being made public would be a monumental hit to their capabilities.
I place a lot of stock in what Yonatan says here and in all of his discussions of his own practices and that of Google in general.  I still find the whole issue troubling from so many perspectives. One of which is: why is this whole issue only NOW gaining traction in the USA when it's been close to 10 years since AT&T fiber optics senior technician Mark Klein outed the NSA surveillance room at AT&T's huge switching station on Folsom Street in downtown San Francisco... a mere 6 blocks away from Dianne Feinstein's San Francisco-based U.S. Senate office?

Even back then the claims were not just telephone calls of all US citizens swept, but also all web usage of citizens.

We (the United States) went through the whole issue of FISA law being broken, and US Congress even legislated to grant retroactive immunity to AT&T for its illegal wiretapping. Thanks to a few decent, sane Senators back then, like Russ Feingold, the legislation was killed. I may be mistaken but I believe Dianne Feinstein even backed this granting of retroactive immunity to AT&T.

I find it hard to believe that someone as wise as you, Yonatan, take anything Dianne Feinstein ever says at face value.  She should have been primaried a long time ago but SF's alleged liberal orientation is just a whole bunch of BS. San Franciscans constantly (re)elect centrist Dems who are just as bad as their counterparts in Rep. Party.

While I understand clearly that this post was written to go "open kimono" about Google's concerns about user privacy, and while I also believe what you said, Yonatan in I believe a comment which I can't seem to find at moment — that you wouldn't believe the extent to which Google takes privacy very seriously — it troubles me that the reaction from all the major tech companies is essentially "who, me?" . I haven't seen evidence to back up what those slides seem to say (in Glenn Greenwald's original story), but to have a 100% "we would never do such a thing" reaction to such amazing slides coming out of the investigative report, something somewhere isn't adding up.

I really do appreciate, +Yonatan Zunger, how you step up to the plate and communicate to users here with actual information and disclosures (to the extent allowed) which address the issues. I never see your degree of candor and willingness to discuss troubling issues echoed by any other Google employee. While that is in itself very disappointing, what's more notable is that you do it consistently. And I know I'm not the only one who recognizes and appreciates it. You seem to be the Chief Integrity Officer at Google, and we welcome it.
+Yonatan Zunger You say that Google's info on its users is only used to target ads - but are there precautions against unmaskers offering appealing, apparently generic ads targeted very precisely at the group of people they want to visit their honey pot? (presumably you don't give any user info on ad display, so they have the hurdle of designing ads such that their marks will click them). I assume that there's some brief algorithmic+human review of campaigns; maybe you can't stop all attackers but you could reduce the frequency of such breaches by trying.
+Jonathan Graehl That's a question that's best directed to the ads team, because it's beyond my specific expertise and it's beyond the scope of this thread. But generally, this is something we strive to avoid.
+Yonatan Zunger  I really appreciate your stepping up and making this statement and answering questions as directly as you can.
If deep packet inspection is in place (and I do believe so) it will be used - for powers interested in sustaining themselves will NOT be able to resist such temptations.  What is deeply worrying though is the notion that the mode of surveillance (its technical details) needs to remain a secret. Resulting in "unknown knows". The kind a feeling that someone is listening in - though one can't talk about it for there is a) no evidence and b) such doubt is unpatriotic and c) paranoid...

Just to remind you - "unknown knowns" according to Slavoj Žižek are: 
"If Rumsfeld thinks that the main dangers in the confrontation with Iraq were the 'unknown unknowns' [...] the main dangers lie in the 'unknown knowns' – the disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene practices we pretend not to know about, even though they form the background of our public values."

Quoted from:
From slide 2 it would seem they're talking about advertising cheaper routes, which is an odd phrasing. But filtering these packets using BGP rule sets does make some sense. But it doesn't corroborate particularly well with the relative low cost and auto subpoena theory (which fits slide 4). But if they are targeting Google/Facebook traffic, I would guess that its by fraudulent route advertisements.

The one thing I'd most like to see is a commitment to keeping EU users data inside the EU. (Unless my government legislates its version of the worst case PRISM into existence)
Here's what I think would be really awesome: Some kind of public Q&A, possibly via Hangout, with - for example - +Larry Page and +David Drummond . There is so much uncertainty about all of this and I feel like it would be a great way to show that Google is willing to discuss this openly, reinforcing the trust most of us put in you.
+Adrian Parker This is precisely why I follow them as well.  It's not just anywhere you have an opportunity to engage people like this.
Thanks for your detailed responses here, +Yonatan Zunger

Whatever the details of the government's programmes turn out to be, I trust (read "hope") that Google always has our backs and stands on the right side of history by remaining pro-user privacy and anti-government censorship.

If what the reports said are completely true, we might as well have all Google servers running out of Tsinghua Science Park.
+Marcel Buchholz, you are so right about having Larry Page and David Drummond doing a live Q&A via Hangouts on Air. We're always hearing people brag about Google "eating its own dogfood", but without a doubt HANGOUTS instantly became the standout product feature of Google+. We've now had the President of the United States use Google+'s Hangouts on Air, we've seen Astronauts aboard the International space station do a live Q&A with astronauts on earth and high school classrooms across the country. Why is it we never see Google's principals using their very own standout product & communication tool?

A blog is all well and good...  but it's over a decade old as a social media form. Today the standard is a live Hangout on Air. Page and any other Google Exec ought to chow down on that dog food and prove to us they're open and accessible. A blog post isn't interactive .... It's a polished statement that's gone through internal legal review before publication.
REPORT on the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial 
communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098(INI)) dated 11 July 2001
The Echelon report can be found at:
One interesting point that could apply:
8.4.1. Inadmissibility of moves to circumvent Article 8 of the ECHR through the use of 
other countries intelligence services 
"As outlined in detail above, the contracting parties must comply with a set of conditions in order to demonstrate that the activities of their intelligence services are compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR. It is quite obvious that intelligence services cannot be allowed to circumvent these requirements by employing assistance from other intelligence services subject to less stringent rules. Otherwise, the principle of legality, with its twin components of accessibility and foreseeability, would become a dead letter and the case law of the European Court of Human 
Rights would be deprived of its substance."
+David Prieto The third slide seems to assert an ability to make known, well, basically everything. There are no specific answers to your questions.
I'm not not going to honestly say I've read every comment here, but the "PRISM" name itself seems to support the language of the slides that +Yonatan Zunger pointed out. The language mentions specifically "collection" and that data will take the cheapest path instead of the most direct.

It seems to me that traffic is likely being intercepted and rerouted by the agency, much like a glass prism would do to light that passes through it. 
Have we heard from the likes of AT&T on this? Have they actually denied anything in the same way the tech companies have?  It seems the statements are coming from the wrong people..    The 'taps' are clearly in the telcos and the NSA is doing the deep packet inspections.
Meh ... apparently the Palantir Prism documentation is now offline.
But the term "Provider" might be interesting.

DPI@telcos fed into Palantir's software @NSA via Palantir Prism module.

This would make the companies mentioned in the slides "Providers" in the terminology of Palantir Prism, without them being directly involved.
Used outside the USA by the US then no Court Order is required as no Court has jurisdiction. The EU Court of Human Rights could similarly be circumvented and concerns were expressed back in July 2001.
Testimony of Donald M. Kerr, Assistant Director, Laboratory Division, FBI
Before the United States Senate, The Committee on the Judiciary
September 6, 2000
"Carnivore Diagnostic Tool"
"First of all, as emphasized above, Carnivore is only employed when the FBI has a court order (or lawful consent) authorizing a particular type of interception or acquisition regarding a particular criminal subject user, user address, or account number. Second, when an ISP can completely, properly, and securely comply with the court order on its own, the FBI does not need to deploy Carnivore. Third, if a decision is made to use Carnivore, the FBI never deploys it without the cooperation and technical assistance of the ISP technicians and/or engineers. Fourth, through working with the ISP, Carnivore is positioned and isolated in the network so as to focus exclusively upon just that small segment of the network traffic where the subject's communications can be funneled."
+Alessandro Piana Bianco The article you link to clearly states "We could quibble all day about whether these men lied (no)" - I don't want to suggest that you are wrong, just that the source you chose to back up your argument with says the exact opposite of what you are proclaiming.
+Alessandro Piana Bianco The NYTimes article suggests that information is being requested by the agency and then sent by the Internet companies in question, in accordance with the law.

That's not the same thing as what's being suggested elsewhere and what +Yonatan Zunger is referring to, that the NSA can simply run rampant in Google's/Facebook's/etc.'s servers and do whatever they want.

The distinction is what everyone is worried about. One requires court orders and official requests for information, the other is unrequited access.
+Jacob Mischka GCHQ is located in the UK (Cheltenham). Similar setups exist in other countries as partnering organisations. Surveillance inside the US could be carried out without any Court Order via the British. Surveillance team in the UK. Likewise, surveillance in the UK could be via the Americans - again circumventing all the legal processes.
+Loic Nageleisen I noticed that immediately when reading Zuckerberg's after reading Page's. It was pretty alarming.
For people who think that PRISM works by having companies disclose their "SSL certs", first of all (1) certificates are public information; what you proabably meant to say is the private keys which are associated with the public keys contained in the certificates, and (2) if you are using SSL with Diffie-Hellman to provide Perfect Forward Secrecy, even having knowledge of the private key is not enough unless the NSA is carrying out massive amounts of man in the middle (MITM) attacks --- which at the scale of the internet, is not something you could do for a mere $20 M/year.   In addition, since MITM attacks require the attacker to be a part of the network exchange, and is not a passive eavesdropping attack, attempts to do MITM are impossible to hide against someone competent doing performance monitoring, and would require massive amounts of servers located right next to the SSL server or client endpoints; a remote data center is not useful for MITM attacks (light speed; it's not just a good idea, it's the law).   For more details:
So will Google be providing a means for individuals to see exactly who Google has given our information to? That's the next logical step to prove your assertions.
+Alessandro Piana Bianco I've read that before, and it honestly has nothing to do with the NYTimes article referenced in the post that you linked. That's the point I'm trying to make, the NYTimes article suggests something different than this original news article reports on.

You just keep throwing out links like it means something.
In the ever cautious age of corporate reputation management, id like to thank +Yonatan Zunger for sharing his views from inside Google, highly commendable well done.

Just to go back on a point made by +Jonathan Brown BNFL [] here in the UK was a nuclear fuels and energy company owned by the UK government, i for one have a few friends who have worked at a site called Capenhurst, on their on various projects, under the banner of ICT, whilst it was not a military facility it did enrich military grade uranium therefore from a security perspective and vetting of employees, it may as well have been, within the site it transpired there was wholesale "eavesdropping" on Irish citizens:

Capenhurst - Cheshire 1989-1998
 (150ft concrete tower built on the BNFL secure site to intercept Irish Communications traffic between BT MW Towers at Holyhead in Angelsey and Sutton Common-Macclesfield. 7 floors of monitoring equipment and 3 floors of 'glassed in' aerials. Staffed 24 hours a day by RAF Special Signals personnel from RRE at Malvern. Cover as MOD ETF - Electronic Test Facility. Closed when Irish changed to a different system/route).

I guess the point i`m making is that 99% of employees did not know about this activity, what this equipment was for or denied all knowledge! 

So as for today-
I believe the facts will be determined probably in the UK before the USA, it is about access to the data of foreign nationals on foreign soil, and importantly if as reported - Prism: ministers challenged over GCHQ's access to covert US operation UK government ministers will have had to have broken the law to allow GCHQ to use any information gleaned from PRISM, indeed for the last 12 months there has been a hotly debated data bill to allow a PRISM like system to be used by UK security officials.
Queen's speech opens door to revival of Snoopers' Charter
Post Woolwich the debate heated up again:

Debate rages over future of Snooper's Charter in wake of Woolwich attack

Of course this shoddily cobbled together powerpoint could simply be a media Phishing exercise, trying to coax the US government to admit, what many had thought for along time, that in turn would push, in my view, the data legislation bill through quicker in the UK quicker for a start, why? because its just legitimising something that`s already happening, and the UK government did exactly the same in the 90`s with phone tapping law. 

Draft Communications Data Bill

"According to Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism Charles Farr, formerly of MI6, so-called "black boxes" - DPI - probes are not the "central plank" of the 2012 Communications Data Bill. The boxes would be used when communications service providers refuse to submit data, but he anticipated that most would maintain data about users in unencrypted form from which contact information could readily be separated from content. This would circumvent SSL encryption during transmission. He said that the DPI boxes were already "used as a matter of course" by ISPs.[7] The Mastering the Internet system was described in 2009 by The Register and The Sunday Times as the replacement for scrapped plans for a single central database, involving thousands of DPI "black boxes" at ISPs in association with the GCHQ base in Cheltenham, funded out of a Single Intelligence Account budget of £1.6 bn, including a £200m contract with Lockheed Martin and a contract with BAE Systems Detica.[8] In 2008 the black box infrastructure was operated by Detica, which had been expected to win additional contracts for its proposed expansion in the Communications Data Bill 2008.[9]"

And of course one of the leaders in DPI technology is California based Blue Coat

So i think we`d be a bit naive to think Governments ARE NOT using DPI, 

So many questions though...... all some i`m sure will start to get answered when the US Gov hand a report over the UK Gov on Monday..... 
+Bobby Abraham That quote to me seems to be taken a little out of context. It doesn't seem so evil and big brothery in the original quote and news articles.
interesting! Many good replies.

I just have one question. What are Schmidt and the former CIA Chief doing at Bilderberger today? It's a secret meeting, why?

I do believe that most of the Google or FB staff are honestly believing in "do no evil"

Another question, - what has the erected statue with the robot-human mixture in front of the Grove hotel  to do with the Google Chief Engineer, who is a brilliant technician, but surely brain-dead otherwise? It was built a couple of days before the Bilderberg meeting at Watford's Grove Hotel where the meeting is taking place right now.

What has Google's shopping of Motorola, for a huge amount, to do with implementing "the tattoo" or in another word described as "the pill" based  on Motorola's developments in nano technology or the nano chip to do with "do no evil?" It's not about mobile phones.
- It came through that this shall be used for internet identification and other purposes. 
You point out several times "inside Google data centers."  That leaves a lot of open room for the NSA to still tap the network links in and out of the data centers and harvest the information crossing the Internet.  They don't even have to be at Google to do that, and just do it at the nearest teleco facility.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed information here to clarify things for me, especially about the WaPo reporter. (I am once again frustrated by the WaPo, and experiencing all sorts of irritation at the US government right now, partly for reasons that have nothing to do with internet traffic.)
A lot of people posting seem not to want to believe that Google would not pass your data along to the government, and from the statement above Google appears to have denied it, right?  Well read closely.

1. The Patriot Act, passed by Congress, mandates that all FISA warrants, requests for your data, are keep secret, so Larry Page and David Drummond would be breaking the law if they disclosed anything about a FISA warrant Google has received, or the thousands of FISA warrants Google has received.  So they can not acknowledge that they know anything about a program like PRISM without breaking the law.  But they don't have to deny knowledge of PRISM, they can just not respond.  So why did they deny it, when the President and the Director of National Intelligence did not deny the existence of PRISM.  Well, read closely...

2. Google says they don't give "direct access to our servers" and had not known of a program called PRISM.  I believe they didn't know the name of the program.  So did the government just take the data, or, as the government documents say, did these companies sign on.  What I believe is Google gave indirect access to the government, and they didn't know the program was called PRISM.  How could they give indirect access?  In many ways, including third party companies which are not directly linked to the government.  And therefore it is not a lie to say they had not heard of PRISM.  Here is a fascinating perspective on that.

3. Google acknowledges that they do receive FISA requests, "requests we receive", and they are open about that "within the confines of the current laws", which means they can basically say nothing about those requests without risking prosecution and being sent to jail.

4. Google has a long history of privacy violations.  Larry Page would have you believe that he cares deeply about the integrity of your data and your privacy rights, but that is simply not true.  Google itself parses every email you write, no matter how private you think it is.  A program on a Google server reads those emails, looks for key words, and then sends you advertising based on those words, or pattern of words.  Google would like you to believe that no human ever sees those intimate private communications you send.  Do you believe that?  Someone has to look at the patterns, someone has to sell the advertising against those patterns, someone has to tweak the code.  And what right do they have even letting a machine parse your email?  It means your emails are no longer private on Google.  In a Google world, you have no privacy.  What you look for on the web, what you write to your loved ones, your doctor, none of it is private.  Anything you do with Google becomes property of Google.  And that is simply what the US government is doing with PRISM.  Google is doing the government's job for them, and very well.  But instead of looking for the word "love" in an email to market a Hallmark card to you, the government is looking for the word "bomb", for example.  So you write to your friend on Gmail, "that show was the bomb", and your email pops up on the computer screen of an NSA analyst, who then culls through all your personal data, including chat logs, videos, emails, everything, figuring out if you are or are not a threat to society.

5. Still believe Google cares about your privacy?  Well six European data protection agencies would disagree.  They are contemplating legal action over Google's privacy policy.  

Google is a corporation motivated by the same thing that drives all corporations; increasing shareholder value.  How does Google do that?  By selling your data to the highest bidder, and abiding by the laws of the United States.  It would hurt shareholder value to violate the law.  Those laws say that the government has the right, under the Patriot Act, to take data from Google.  So Google is giving your data to advertisers, and the government, and it's own privacy policies, the policies it writes, support that practice.  "Do No Evil" is a brilliant marketing campaign thought up by two idealistic graduate students more than a decade ago.  But Google is not a garage startup anymore.  Google is a massive corporate entity that answers to its shareholders, and Google has the the feduciary responsibility to increase shareholder value.  Google does not have a fiduciary responsibility to do no evil.  And thusly, your data, your emails, your thoughts, your ideas, your intimate personal life, in essence - you - are sold to the highest bidder, and all that private data is freely given away to the government when they ask.  Or don't ask as the case may be.
So now we know that one company was actually using Google Wave
+Don McArthur I've been trying to get certain laws changed my entire life and to date have been 0% successful. So, while in theory you are absolutely correct, in practicality it doesn't fly...
+Yonatan Zunger "Whatever the NSA was doing involving the mass harvesting of information, it did not involve being on the inside of Google"

For all you know, an NSA operative placed within Google has given them copies of all your SSL private keys. They don't need direct access then do they, and they have real time streaming...
+Sue West Just read the article and I like how Danny makes the distinction between "case by case" and "direct access" to data. However, I disagree with Danny when he says that the Washington Post and The Guardian are "confused." I think their long- term falling subscriber counts were the main reason they were willing to overstretch their hands and sensationalize the story by using the words "direct access" in relation to the way information is being gathered by the NSA.
You know what would really convince me? OTR support in Hangouts for end-to-end encryption...

Or, for that matter, S/MIME support in Gmail.
+Davide Baroncelli There are still important caveats like IEs lack of elliptic curve support. And I'm curious if it would be possible to use TLS session tickets spoofing  or spoofing that the  client browser does not support elliptic curve to make connections passing through be MITM'able on a as needed basis for the attacker. I need to read more about this to have a strong opinion, until then I will default to assuming the NSA, etc could figure something out.
+Jacob Mischka It doesn't necessarily imply that he'd be willing to cooperate with a program like PRISM, but it's definitely indicative of hostility towards the notion of privacy. He's effectively saying the only reason people would desire privacy are people that "doing things that they shouldn't be". 

For a company like Google, which relies on users entrusting them with their data, that's an extremely alarming thing to hear. 
+Bobby Abraham The original sounds more along the lines of "if you're really that worried about absolutely no one seeing what you're doing, don't do it", not just anyone desiring privacy.

He really only points out the fact that the data obviously is transmitted internally at Google. It's not like he's using that to justify selling it or anything.

But yeah, I agree, it's a rather alarming quote.
+Bobby Abraham I agree, one person's "doing things that they shouldn't be" is crime, to another person it is political dissidence or whistle blowing.

I would like to see companies like Google to take technical measures to make it impossible to comply with these kind of orders in a meaningful way. So they might comply, but the powers that be would get no useful information. For example, my gmail could be encrypted using my public key and only decrypted client side using my private key. Then google could not read my mail (after storing it) and they could not provide anything but cryptotext to governments. They could still do all their advertising stuff by doing keyword indexing or whatever they do at receive time.
+Tylor Arndt That's an interesting solution. I'd be curious as to how that would affect transmit time and costs when considering the millions of people using the service. Maybe it could be offered as an option at a small fee or something. Just an idea. 
+Richard Hoefer  [Feinstein] should have been primaried a long time ago but SF's alleged liberal orientation is just a whole bunch of BS.   Dianne Feinstein's electorate includes considerably more than just the City of San Francisco.  She's a senator, representing the entire state.
+Leif Nixon  No. The CA does not (generally) have access to the end entity private keys, and thus can't compromise them.   True.  I wasn't thinking this all the way through.  Fake keys could be used for a MITM intercept, however, which is very likely how a state security apparatus would work.  Trusting major Internet service operators to be on the lookout for this, and to report on any such instances, would be helpful.
+Marc Ambinder has an article on "Solving the Mysteries of PRISM"  that (along with his earlier article on "Sources: NSA sucks data from 50 companies) seems consistent with Yonatan's discussion and the statements from various tech companies.   He uses Facebook as an example but it would seem to apply just as well for Google.  More at
+Jacob Mischka  "I'd be curious as to how that would affect transmit time and costs when considering the millions of people using the service."

Not much,  the server has one extra public key encrypt (which is cheap and happens every-time you visit a HTTPS page), after that the extra work is done client side (and is still pretty cheap). The only think burdensome perhaps is that any search/ad indexing must happen are receive time and is not deferred (which may or may not be the case now).

The real technical challenge here is how to make sure the user has their private key on their devices/browsers without storing the key at Google, etc. Perhaps putting this key server in a different legal jurisdiction or letting users sneaker-net it at their choice is an option.
+Perry Lucas  That leaves a lot of open room for the NSA to still tap the network links in and out of the data centers  Yonatan's being somewhat oblique, but that's pretty much exactly the scenario he alludes to.
I find your final statement amazingly non self-aware: "...has convinced [itself] and the rest of the [itself] that the only way it can do its job is to know everything about everyone."  You don't see the irony of that statement, coming from a Googler? You're justified in hating this behaviour when it comes from the government, but can you now start to see the viewpoint of a growing number of Google haters?
Why do all the leaked slides, including the most recent, clearly say that the NSA has direct access to Google servers? Are we supposed to trust the public statements of a for-profit corporation that would be bound to deny this over the leaked internal documents of the NSA?

I wish you would just come clean, Google.
+Yonatan Zunger Perhaps the 2nd slide says it best: "(data) will take the cheapest path." If you wanted to tap a provider's data flow, simply enable some strategically placed backbone segments which are underpriced. Insert your prisms into the segments you control. All things being equal, the target's data will automagically flow into the prism, split, and be forwarded to both the proper destination and the NSA.
+Chris Hoffman Because they don't: read the slides carefully. Some incautious journalists inferred that, and last night the WaPo and the Guardian both retracted several of their allegations. I just shared a few follow-ups.
Amari D
Shall we note that Google, nor any of the other companies, have threatened any of the newspapers with lawsuits over this. If you want proper denial, then there lays the path.
+Bill Gillberg Threatening the newspapers with lawsuits would be incredibly abusive, notwithstanding the validity of the stories. There are already profound risks surrounding reporting on intelligence issues; it would be awful if they were compounded by a risk of libel or slander lawsuits.
+Yonatan Zunger The Guardian's follow-up story might change the interpretation: the same slideshow also includes information on a program called 'Upstream' -- presumably, the fiber taps at major providers. What that program entails, and which slides refer to which program, is still a matter of interpretation.
+Andreas Schou I would definitely love to see more information about all of this. I don't doubt that the NSA (and the rest of the US intel community) has an extremely sophisticated data-gathering network in place -- and we, as a country, haven't been able to have a conversation about just what tradeoffs we want to make, because all the information about what's being traded off for what has been kept secret. 
A lot of the world still uses non-SSL connections, there's probably billions of emails delivered by SMTP servers that don't use encryption, so the upstream access probably grabs a lot of low hanging fruit.

SSL really started getting enforced when Wifi took off, and a lot of people were snooping their local coffee shops or neighbors who hadn't enabled WPA, or were using WEP.
+TheBlack Box Oh, I see. They released one more goddamn slide. Thanks, Guardian! That's real helpful! 

(Forgive the snark; I see no reason why we should not be able to see all 41 slides out of the deck.)
Also, from the same article:

"The Guardian's initial reporting of Prism made clear the technology companies denied all knowledge of the program, and did not speculate on whether it would need such co-operation in order to work.

A far fuller picture of the exact operation of Prism, and the other surveillance operations brought to light, is expected to emerge in the coming weeks and months, but this slide gives a clearer picture of what Prism is – and, crucially, isn't."

And this is why James Ball is a terrific journalist and Glenn Greenwald is not. 
+Andreas Schou They're really milking this for the next (41-5) days. One of the reasons why I don't trust Greenwald, it feels like media whoring.
+Jon Pincus So I see. At this point, I want to see the rest of the deck: I have no idea what the hell this new slide is talking about. And I reiterate everything I and the team said about our policies and practices.
The Guardian live blog link provides more context - there appears to be an ongoing background conversation between the Guardian and some kind of officials about what must be redacted (as the new slide has redactions).  Really, it looks like some kind of ongoing negotiation to get more discussion going and until we see everything it's really all up in the air.  

Ah, transparency, how much trouble could have been avoided.
+Yonatan Zunger "all of these things require legal orders". No, they don't. Email older than 180 days doesn't require a legal order: And FISA requests can be as broad as in the Verizon case (i.e. all citizens in the US). That's why your post is misleading. Just admit the Government is forcing you into taking part of this police state. You guys are breaking my heart with your doublespeak
That's because the law was written under the expectation that all mail would be downloaded, and older mail was considered abandoned? Is there any likelihood of this distinction catching up with the cloud?
+Peter da Silva Damned if I know. IIRC there are quite a few groups that want to keep ECPA the way it is, or even make more information not require warrants -- law enforcement and the like. I would personally be very happy to see this law be tightened, to treat e-mails (no matter where they are stored) like a person's papers. 
Ryan R
The newly released slide clearly defines Upstream ("collection of communications on fiber cables") and Prism ("collection directly from the servers") as separate programs. It also lists Google as a participant in Prism again.

If these slides are real, I think Google still has some explaining to do.
+Yonatan Zunger I want to see the whole deck too. One plausible theory is the it's sloppy terminology on the slides ...
+Yonatan Zunger , Thanks for the direct and thoughtful post on this most disturbing subject. I appreciate the lack of legal verbiage and the general openness of what you have said.

Moreover, I appreciate your integrity, both to the privacy of Google's users and to your motivations.

Please keep fighting the good fight, it is appreciated!
When some like +Aqeel Khan has made up their mind, no amount of evidence to the contrary will change it.
I completely agree, +Jeff Jarvis -- and think that we need to keep the public involved in such conversations as well. Honestly, the response to these allegations has been incredibly heartening to me; I'm glad that people care.
+Yonatan Zunger Inasmuch as no one (government or industry) has contested the veracity of the actual Prism slides, it appears that they are legitimate. It's incumbent on Google (and the rest of the providers implicated) to treat this as a high priority hacking case, regardless of whether it was an inside or outside job.

In addition to the moral imperative to protect its user's privacy (we can debate whether corporations are moral entities), there's a strong business case that trust in Google is seriously eroded by permitting their customer data to be hacked, either from within or externally. Either Google security vigorously pursues this allegation or it does not. If not, Google's customers must assume they are in cahoots with the NSA.

+Yonatan Zunger 's claims that Google was not involved are all well and good and I respect his candor. However, actions speak louder than words. If Google did not knowingly collude with the NSA, then this is a straightforward case of hacking and Google has the resources and expertise to track down and prosecute the hackers whether they are private entities, foreign governments, or the US government.

The coming days will tell. If Google rolls over and plays dead, claiming they were not involved, a huge amount of customer trust will be sacrificed, many assuming that either Google was in on the spying or that Google is so inept that it is unable to pursue hackers invading its networks and restore the privacy that it promises its customers.

On the other hand, if Google either convincingly debunks the content and sources of the Prism slides, or mercilessly pursues these alleged government hackers, there's a chance to restore customer confidence and to put the teeth of action behind +Yonatan Zunger 's palliative, but passive, words at the beginning of this post. 
+Tony Asch $20m does not buy a firehose feed out of Google, notwithstanding the ability to put it in. And note that the Washington Post has received a second document which contextualizes the first -- go back and read the article, and you'll see.
What's to stop the NSA working directly with DevOps to provision a backdoor firehose? (how would Larry Page or any CEO even know).
+Andreas Schou Then Mr. Obama should vigorously deny the veracity of the Prism slides, demonstrating how they must be a fabrication for the very reason you state. To date, no one in the government has done this, nor has Google, nor has Google stated that they will investigate a potentially serious breach in security.
+clive boulton The prospect of someone random in a datacenter finding industrial-scale routers plugged into fiber-to-nowhere and asking what the hell is this doing here?
+Tony Asch They almost certainly aren't a fabrication. I just believe that Talmudic interpretation of a single line in a set of slides to include programs which could not possibly be accomplished for the listed $20m budget is probably unproductive.
+Andreas Schou then every request for data by the NSA requires DevOps to back up a HDD and FedEx it to Fort Meade?
+clive boulton Obviously not. But there's a difference between a secure connection to NSANET for delivering NSL subject matter and replicating the outputs of a significant fraction of a datacenter.
+Andreas Schou Which Talmudic line strikes you as the "only" offensive assertion in all the slides?

What would it hurt Google to treat this as a potential security breach and reassure their customers?

I agree - the slides could be BS, but the lack of any sort of denial by the govt. should raise a red flag and Google should do their due diligence in investigating a damning set of "official" publications.

Government budgets are notoriously fishy. Perhaps the $20m is for the production of PRISM powerpoint slides.
+Tony Asch The way I'm hearing Andreas is that he's saying that with 5/41 of the slides available it is not fruitful to delve deeply into what they could mean because the speculation would be endless.  

The WashPost has updated their story - page two starts with the newer stuff that's come to light with the qualifier "executives under the condition of anonymity".   I'm not going to recap it here, ty hypertext!
+Vlatko Bogdanovic Not fruitful?? Govt. documents state clearly that they have direct access to Google's data. Larry Page, et. al. deny it. Company with $10b+ in annual profit can't be bothered to investigate? Do people trust Google more or less sans a full security look-see? Bad for Google's business to sit on their thumbs relying solely on proof-by-assertion by their management. Page and Drummond owe it to their customers and stockholders to fully check out a government program leak impugning Google's most sacred tenets that no govt. official has contested the truth of. It would cost Google a single hour's profit to see if they've been hacked. It will cost them years of profit if they do not.
+Tony Asch You mean, "A single sentence in a poorly-made power-point says that they have direct access to Google's data, without indicating whether this is upon court order or without a court order; whether it is directly via the NSA or mediated by other agencies' wiretapping authority; whether it is with Google's cooperation or without Google's cooperation; whether it is data related to Americans or data related to foreign intelligence; and whether it is a large amount of data or a small amount of data."

These are relevant issues in determining what it might mean. But right now, I only have access to the word 'direct,' which could include anything from an illicit backdoor to a secure NSANET line (and associated servers) for delivering real-time results on wiretap orders to US law enforcement (whereupon NSA has access.)

It is not "best not to speculate." It is best to speculate. But given the scant information available, it is probably best to treat all speculation as provisional.
+Andreas Schou I treat it all as provisional.

However, Google would be far more credible if it applied its vast technical resources to substantiate the blanket proofs-by-assertion of their execs. Let Google lead by demonstrating their commitment to transparency. Anyone who's dealt with Google services knows that their security staff instantly clamps down on potential hacking based on evidence far less credible than the 5 slides.

"Poorly-made power-point" is a bit redundant, don't you think? This presumes the most unlikely existence of a well-made power-point somewhere in the universe. Hope springs eternal!
+Tony Asch Put bluntly, it can't. I don't feel that Google could make the assurances you're asking for in a credible way, because we know that Google's public statements are restricted by its NSLs.

As it stands, NSLs come with a gag order.

If Google, in its denials, is hinting at the shape of something it cannot disclose, it is most likely the scope, subject matter, and technical underpinnings of the NSLs it's received. It just lost a lawsuit to either disclose or stop complying with certain of the NSLs it's receiving -- we're not sure which, because that case is sealed -- but that seems to indicate that Google has some concerns (or must take certain considerations into account) which are not reflected either in its public statements or elsewhere in the press.
Let's assume for a moment that the FISA Court not only issued a gag order but ordered active denials by company officials if the program were ever leaked (because the 4th amendment is trashed, so might as well burn the 1st as well) under threat of imprisonment.

How would we be able to tell what is the truth and what is not the truth?  If a compelled actor were in this situation, how might he signal his situation while still maintaining deniability?  These are the things we should be looking for.
+Andreas Schou Bluntly as well - If Google can't be reasonably truthful with regard to PRISM because there's a legal gag in place, then a simple "no comment" would be superior to the Page/Drummond post and the original poster's, Zunger, passionate exposition.

I find it difficult to believe that Zunger would make an untruthful post, offering to resign before he would be forced to lie to the thread's audience, in the hypothetical realization that he knew a contrary set of facts but felt compelled to construct a false morality play simply due to a gag order.

But I digress - If Google feels that a few blog posts will put this to bed with their customers, that's their right. I don't think it's enough.
+Bill McGonigle This is very unlikely.

Procedurally, a violation of a secret FISA order compelling denials -- and I do not believe any such thing exists -- would be subject to normal habeas corpus procedures outside the FISA court system. If there were, for instance, a secret set of precedents permitting that sort of thing, then they would only be persuasive authority inside the federal district court where the habeas petition was heard. 

In the hypothetical case where this was the law -- and I do not believe that it is possible to covertly trash the 1st Amendment in the same sense that you can trash the 4th -- I would be fairly confident that the duration of imprisonment for failing to comply would be fairly small or negligible. 

(Not to mention that to compel a denial from Yonatan about a hypothetical program would require telling someone who is perfectly capable of going to a non-extradition country, logging onto the Internet, and posting from there about a very secret program, then overtly threatening him with imprisonment. There is a reason why very oppressive countries threaten people's families -- there are just some things you cannot coerce someone into doing.)
There is one more thing to consider: The people at Google who knew about it are likely not the sorts of people who would post publically about things happening at Google. To put it another way, the people who know are likely of a higher pay grade than Zunger.
+Bryce Lynch There are not terribly many people of a higher pay grade than chief architects, which AFAIU is the engineering-track position immediately beneath a vice president.

The people involved would actually likely be of much lower pay grades. 
The most important lesson learnt is that conveying information in PowerPoint slides leads to mass confusion. They can be interpreted in many different ways and without the speaker's notes they can be very misleading.
I would love to see the news media get their hand on the policies that were approved by Congress for such a massive gathering of data and how they were implemented by NSA.
+Brad Koehn The trust model of SSL is broken such that you don't need a whole lot of horsepower to MITM SSL/TLS connections, you just need a single wildcard certificate from a CA.  Equipment to do the former is on the open market and deployed all around the world already.  The latter can be acquired from one of the dozens of CAs that are trusted by default by most any client-side SSL implementation out there.
Ryan R
+Brad Koehn not necessarily. Nation-states have pulled off MITM attacks against Gmail.

Chrome protects against some MITM attacks with cert pinning, but that only works if you are visiting Google properties with a Google browser.

SSL is completely broken. This is particularly true if you can control or compel the CAs.
+Brad Koehn It is not. Previous SSL MITM attacks were discovered only because the hardware carrying them out was accessed by accident. SSL's trust model, to be frank, is completely fucked.
+Ryan R ..or if you just buy a wildcard SSL cert, which a few CAs got caught doing.  Money talks.
+Bill McGonigle The Fourth Amendment was trashed for metadata more than thirty years ago.  It has long been the law in the United States that citizens had no reasonable expectation of privacy or right to their own phone call metadata.

The only legal issue here would be whether the subpoena to Verizon was legal, and the only one with standing there would be Verizon for its own business records.  The fact that they are about you is irrelevant.

As Mark Lemley said this morning, the scandal is not that what was done was illegal, the scandal is that what was done or planned was NOT illegal.
+Andrew C. Greenberg _Smith v. Maryland_ represents the state of the law dating back to telegraphs, and before that to anything written on the outside of an envelope -- metadata has always been fair game, as far as I can tell.
Yonatan - Thank you and LarryP for such clear and unambiguous statements.  Naturally webizens don't know who to trust when we learn about such a huge violation of privacy and what used to be our civil rights. But I believe YOU. Among the large companies, Google HAS pushed for privacy in an intelligent way. 
The similarity among all the accused companies denials says something. There is truth hidden and buried between the vomit of legal speak which says more than what Larry Page actually tells us. These companies can not legally say anything about Prism so what they do say is damming. 
It is interesting if one looks at the companies listed, one company curiously not. Where is Twitter. Did they hold out and deny access to their servers? Curious.
But to believe that a company who can easily match adwords to sell us by reading our emails can't provide the government with intelligent content on users activities.
The real question is what is the price we are willing to pay to protect ourselves against terrorists. 
I think people have to keep in mind goals here. NSA's core mission is "cryptologic superiority". Dwell on what that means for a minute.

Now consider the US military created the Internet so NSA has been there since the beginning. 
+Yonatan Zunger I'm not a American citizen, therefore not protected by US Constitution's 4th Amendment. I understand that NSA doesn't even need a search warrant or a FISA order to access my personal data stored in Google's servers. 
+Marcos Justo It needs a FISA order, but not a search warrant. Metadata may or may not be available pursuant to an extraordinarily broad  FISA order, and that metadata may or may not include information which you would be surprised at.
You would be surprised at how limited are your constitutional protections with respect to, at least, telephone metadata.  This has been the case for more than thirty years, in fact:

After an earlier case held that wiretaps, at least, constitutionally required a search warrant, the Court distinguished that case in Smith, holding that while the content of your call was protected by the Fourth, the fact of the call, particularly the numbers, time and duration of the call, were not.  They are only the property of the intermediaries that handled the phone call, and can be obtained by ordinary subpoena and do not require any warrant.
Google doesn't respect privacy at the most basic levels, the idea that they resist the government (when they in fact, admit handing info over to the government) is absurd. Just look at privacy violations that Google engaged in. They were levied the biggest fine ever by FTC for hacking a browser.

Until there's a Supreme Court case, brought by Google, to oppose this kind of spying, the claim that google gives a damn is an opiate for the masses of non-thinkers.
+Melanie Brands I'm also a big critic of Google on privacy grounds, but to give credit where credit is due, they have fought for the right to notify the targets of government requests, and actually got permission to include some rough data about the frequency of NSL's as part of the their transparency report.
+Yonatan Zunger Once again, I think all that legal process doesn't apply to me. Could you clarify that?
+Melanie Brands - With respect, the record indicates that your statements are incorrect.

The true source of these programs are our elected legislators. The issue isn't so much that this monitoring is happening (it has always been technically possible) but that it has been made legal.
Just a thought experiment ... I wonder at what point in their development Google started receiving requests from law enforcement? I tried to remember when they first introduced user accounts and guessed with Gmail in 2004, but they actually acquired Blogger the year before. Before that when they were more intensely focused on just search, I suppose law enforcement might have been interested in search data even if it couldn't necessarily be tied to a specific user (because there were no accounts)?
[edit]  Hmm..  I just realized she may have deleted her comments, and I don't see anything in incognito mode either.  nevermind the noise.

+Yonatan Zunger I noticed something interesting about this thread.  I see you responding to a couple of people (that I have circled, but did not circle me back), but I don't see what they wrote.

I can see their profile and their posts on their page though, so they haven't blocked me.

Thought I'd mention it.

And thank you very much for discussing this issue in public.  Very glad to see that Google does take privacy issues seriously.
+Marcos Justo  "I'm not a American citizen, therefore not protected by US Constitution's 4th Amendment."
Just to be clear, it's not just US citizens, but all legal US permanent residents that are covered by the Constitution.
+Chris Stehlik Disagree.  Depending on which law, it can cover citizens or residents

If it's plain "residents", it doesn't exclude categories of people outside of US permanent residents (foreign students, spouses, L1/H1 visas, business, visitors, temporary residents, etc).
+fan tai Or simply persons.  E.g.:  due process, search, and even the right to bear arms, AFAIU, all apply to persons regardless of their citizenship or residency status.  Even undocumented aliens have some rights.
I'm pretty sure that in matters of "national security" there are no warrants, no FISA, no presidential or congressional authorization, etc.. I'm pretty sure SCOTUS has upheld that too (and hey even if they didn't, what would it matter. ha).

Anyway, it was an amusing weekend scandal. What it comes down to is global surveillance by NSA almost certainly takes place. But here's the thing. They very likely don't care about your fantasy football draft or snickerdoodle recipe or your play date with Chloe's kid. They're focus is counter cyber warfare, and potentially (probably) offensive cyber warfare too.

Just think about the logistics of the Verizon thing alone. 100 million customers. Let's say 5 hours per day on average. That's a half-billion hours of call data to sift through. Does your fantasy football league really rise to threat level?

So my advice is carry on. NSA are code makers and code breakers. They're the best in the world, but it really doesn't have any daily bearing on the vast majority of us.

--> end communique (ha)
OK, now I've gone from "this could just be implementation details of processes we already know about" to "this sounds like direct access".

"The companies cannot see the queries that are sent from the NSA to the systems installed on their premises, according to sources familiar with the PRISM process.""


The companies cannot see the queries

The fact that the FBI is an intermediary is small consolation.
+Peter da Silva The fact that the FBI is the intermediary means that this is just the conventional wiretap process, forwarded to a different terminal.
hi Yonatan,

what about ?

His guess is "So Google complies, and the whole thing has been handled “in accordance with the law.” Given how important the Super 9 are to PRISM, it seems clear that responses from queries must come back pretty quickly, almost as fast as a normal search engine, for example.

That tells me there’s a lot of automation going on in a server or two (just don’t call them back doors or drop boxes)."
What's wrong with automation?  Automation is good.  That is not the issue here. The issue that needs to be discussed is the scope - the FISA parts of the law is still law.

The question that should be asked of all these companies is how often do they get FISA requests, etc.  That is the question no one is asking, probably because they know they cannot get any answers because you are not allowed to talk about FISA requests.

Which means - talk to your Representative and Senator to get the law changed.

Which means - go put a petition up on

You also forgot one other thing.  AT&T/etc regularly routes your voice traffic over to Canada and then back to US.  NSA cannot legally tap US citizen to US citizen calls over US soil.  Any traffic capture overseas (or land, in this case) is fair game, no matter the origin or destination, as I understand it.

In other words, there are more serious issues than trying to nail Google to this.
+Ihar Mahaniok Uncrunched is manufacturing conspiracy theories left and right. And see my latest post -- I personally, and we as a company, would very much welcome increased openness, and we've asked the government publicly to lift its bans on our speaking.
NSA puts you guys in a helluva bind +Yonatan Zunger I still believe Google's security is the best anywhere and trust you guys. Like I said, this wasn't news to me.

FYI, I signed up for Google Play to show my support, if that's any consolation :)
эффект от всего этого тут(почему большинство "крепко задним умом?") :
Orwell’s ‘1984’ Soars on Amazon After NSA Surveillance Reports
Как это не грустно, но ничего не меняется...гляди вот это новое! но это было в веках прежде... Даже "Воздушный шар на 2000 персон" 
+Don Whitehead There are a few ways to do it.  Insert a proxy between the user and Google - that's what Iran did, allegedly.

Since NSA apparently has a yellow room or something over at AT&T, that could be done there, and Google wouldn't even know about it.

We also know Germany and/or other countries are putting malware (see the "fake" FireFox posting, I had shared it, it's been shared quite a bit) on user's PC, as well as duping users to use backdoored versions of software.

What about using public library computers that have key and session loggers?  At Kinkos?

What about all those "FREE HOTSPOT" at the airport?

None of these would be Google's fault at all.
+Don Whitehead I didn't say that -- I said that whatever they were doing, it didn't involve being inside our systems. I don't actually have any evidence that there was any mass harvesting of data, especially as part of the PRISM program. (The Verizon program, OTOH, does seem to have involved mass harvesting) 
The recovering Angeleno in me is happy to assist this conversation with immediate counter-TMZ gossip-mongering methods, +Jeff Sullivan. ;)
Me, I had to look TMZ up.  +A.V. Flox 
A celebrity in Nevada is a well-known horse.
+Jeff Sullivan That's not too different from here - in California, a celebrity is also often a well-known part of a horse. 
+Jeff Sullivan It's not just comedy shows that have little snippets here and there from the past decade. Here a a whole slew of them from the more left-leaning media: . It seems likely that you'd also find drips and drabs from various right-of-center sources given the very long timespan over which to search.

There's a reason most of the reaction has been "finally this mostly open secret is getting actual traction" and not "this is completely inconceivable".
This post makes me long for a way to jump to unread comments on a post, particularly in the mobile client where there is no way to quixkly scroll to the end. 
+Peter da Silva Worse:  even on the desktop client, a post is opened to the most recent two comments, regardless of how many have been posted since you last viewed the post/thread.  A little intelligence would go a long way here.
+Peter da Silva On the iOS G+ apps (when it's not busy crashing on iOS 7[1] :) :)), you can enter a comment at the bottom, and cancel out - poof, you're at the tail end of the thread.

Now, if you want to reload everything, you're on your own... :)

[1]  Yes yes, it's beta.  Sucks battery life like no other.  Found a few bugs.  Fun! :)
Mark J
"I can tell you that the only way in which Google reveals information about users are when we receive lawful, specific orders about individuals -- things like search warrants."

Sadly, it's the plethora of quasi-legalized vehicles that are accepted "like search warrants" that make such statements vacuous.
+Mark J It's less than vacuous because of the restriction to orders about individuals -- while I agree that there are far too many types of orders about individuals, there's still a big difference between a demand for information about John Smith of 1500 West Wombat Lane and a demand for all the information for everyone in Cincinnati. Individualized suspicion is the underlying notion behind search warrants, and while the other types of legal order aren't nearly as stringent, what they do have in common is that they preserve that. 

It's a limited comfort, but it's a pretty big deal.
A late response...

As a Google employee myself that works on Google+ (and, at one point, on data protection), I was both relieved and vindicated to see your statements on this.  I might conceivably have missed something about backdoors or whatnot, so I appreciate your assurances (even though I probably wasn't your intended audience).  :)
' just read the Infoworld Tech Watch article that quoted your blog, and I think your belief in our government to not act similar to the a Stasi isn't realistic. But I do believe that your blog post and comments above are genuine.

I've been told by a law enforcement friend that it's best to remain ignorant of government surveillance. I think the reason they told me this is because too much knowledge of certain government activities could prove to be disastrous for ones life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

I strongly believe that Aaron Swartz crossed this line. I also believe he was a thorn in the side of governments worldwide and lost all hope in the country founded by our constitution to protect him from our government.

With your convictions I hope you're never put in Aaron's position.
Mark J
Check out Steve Gibson's latest "Security Now". PRISM is likely based on optical taps (prisms) on the main backbone at carriers' primary hubs. They can get all of Google's data without actually entering their data centers. The closer the router is to a major provider (like Google) the more focused the traffic will be on that service. These taps were already revealed by previous whistleblowers several years ago and the PR machine was able to deflect attention. 
+Mark J Unless those taps are after the SSL/TLS termination, they're going to produce a very high workload datastream.

If they're after the SSL/TLS termination, Google have a lot of explaining (and possibly datacenter review) to do.
I've been away from News for a number of days. Has there been any new information that was released by The Guardian that provides some kind of proof to the small set of slides' communicating it's "direct access to servers"? I'm kind of at a loss for where this story sits right now... other that the US Govt and Media already using character assasination to smear the whistleblower, the typical means of derailing the story for sideshows that distract.
I hope you guys continue to put pressure on the govt to let you release the information for your transparency project.

I'm curious what it would look like, especially if you do your best to make them go for the specificity
+Chris Stehlik, thanks so much for posting that re Facebook's head of Counsel speaking as candidly as that! I find it both amazing and refreshing, and am really surprised this move is coming from facebook first: Since this story was first reported, we’ve been in discussions with U.S. national security authorities urging them to allow more transparency and flexibility around national security-related orders we are required to comply with. We’re pleased that as a result of our discussions, we can now include in a transparency report all U.S. national security-related requests (including FISA as well as National Security Letters) – which until now no company has been permitted to do.

This is really a great thing to read, where some real data was given, including # of facebook accounts this has affected, as well as specifying at least the types of information these datasharing requests have been about.
+Yonatan Zunger, thanks very much for reply. I've been offline more than on for this past week, and it's easy to fall out of the loop since news stories or company statements generate a 24/7 social media response. And if, as one person, you miss a day being online when such activity exists, you can actually feel like 24 hours later you're a schlump for bringing up a topic that thoroughly got hashed out a day or two before.

(Btw, I have a better understanding now of your statement re "not the only one" being moral compass for company.. This via some private messaging sent to me. It's more clear to me why you might be more vocal and responsive here in public than others. regardless, though, thank you for doing so. A lot of people feel it very important and significant that you do play an active role in processing through these kinds of news stories. ... But just for added context from me re: my comment, I was including your very proactive reaction to many people's unhappiness about and disgust for Google killing off Reader. You went far beyond anyone else's comment or reaction by actively querying users to please specify the product features they cared about most in Reader, stating that you would try very hard to incorporate them into new products that shared infrastructure or code relationship to Google+ ... Again, that meant a lot to people here.)
Honestly Its hard to trust Google right now, Now to be fair monitoring has been going on for a while now and isnt really anything all that new, Personally I would love to trust you guys but when signs point to this same exact situation of Denial (not by choice, But by legal means) its hard to to believe Google, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, Att, etc. you all have been as forward as you can be and perhaps you speak truth but simple choices of word that Maybe over analyzed such as" the only way in which Google reveals information about users are when we receive lawful, specific orders about individuals -- things like search warrants. And we continue to stand firm against any attempts to do so broadly or without genuine, individualized suspicion, and publicize the results as much as possible in our Transparency Report." I find it like I said Difficult to Believe Any Big Corp. but I will stand behind Google and try and believe phrases like "Don't be Evil" are truly honored at Google, and that if anything Has Been done to harm the trust between Google and its Users can be Fixed or stopped, that Google steps up and Does the right things.   
Mark J
+Edward Morbius even if they can't decrypt the ssl content right now, they're clearly capturing it all and saving it for later research when CPU power increases. That's the driving factor behind their huge new data storage facilities.

Meanwhile the metadata of all traffic (including credit card transactions) is a powerful tool and produces a "chilling effect" of the exercise of free speech. 
+Mark J  even if they can't decrypt the ssl content right now   Actually, that's not what I said.  It's that the cost of decrypting traffic en mass is greater than the cost of simply requesting the cleartext stream.  What the costs of decryption are, I don't know, but I assume that if a given traffic element is of sufficient interest and cleartext intercepts don't exist, that the snoops would apply resources to the problem, and may well be able to crack it.

And yes, with greater CPU power, more cores, better algorithms, workforce reduction cracks, etc., the likelihood is that cracking will have lower costs in the future.

+Richard Hoefer +Yonatan Zunger the most recent update I've seen on "collection directly from the servers" is from the Washington Post last weekend [1]:

Intelligence community sources said that this description, although inaccurate from a technical perspective, matches the experience of analysts at the NSA. From their workstations anywhere in the world, government employees cleared for PRISM access may “task” the system and receive results from an Internet company without further interaction with the company’s staff.

A subtle point here: the NSA's definition of "collection" is when an analyst actually looks at the data.  So keep that in mind as you're parsing the various statements.

[1] has more
Aaaand the latest Guardian article discusses how the internet metadata flows into GCHQ's "Mastering the Internet" and "Global Telecoms Exploitation" programs -- as +Yonatan Zunger hypothesized, via an upstream tap.

One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months....

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets....

By May last year 300 analysts from GCHQ, and 250 from the NSA, had been assigned to sift through the flood of data.
Very interesting +Alessandro Piana Bianco. My first thought upon notification of your comment: "_This thread is dead. It's been thoroughly discussed. Yonatan has no basis for commenting further._"  But OK, it's new information published by the Washington Post June 29, 2013, more PRISM slides.

And GigaOm, based on the WP report, is calling into question the denials made by the major tech companies on June 7, 2013 about direct access. That was the basis for +Yonatan Zunger's whole thread here. So it seems relevant.
+Richard Hoefer Agreed, the Washington Post elaboration on June 29 was pretty unambiguous in indicating the FBI has on-premises equipment for PRISM providers.  I read this entire thread intently and I still fully believe +Yonatan Zunger was sincere, but I no longer believe Google which is a shame since I really wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The public reaction is interesting, though -- and telling.  When that is everyone's first assumption (that the NSA surveillance program was how they landed on these folks front doorstep), there's a problem.
+Cindy Brown Pretty much precisely the point I made on +Lauren Weinstein's post.  Noting that he did happen to call this one right.  The shadow of suspicion though has been pretty compellingly cast, and that is a problem for Google and every other SAAS / PAAS provider out there.

To say nothing of the 100 visits/week day statistic that came out of this story.
I'm actually a bit skeptical of the 100/day (wasn't it per week) thing.  THat's typical sort of hyperbole people in casual conversaton engage in for one thing.  For another if the numbers were that large, we'd have more people reporting cases like this.  

But it's also a problem for the NSA -- as is the near vote in the House (with the Republicans).
+Cindy Brown Point, I've corrected day to week above.  However, that was the value given, on the record, by law enforcement, as I recall.
I'm not sure I'd take her so literally.  Here's the text:

By this point they had realized they were not dealing with terrorists. They asked my husband about his work, his visits to South Korea and China. The tone was conversational.

They never asked to see the computers on which the searches were done. They never opened a drawer or a cabinet. They left two rooms unsearched. I guess we didn’t fit the exact profile they were looking for so they were just going through the motions.

They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.

Recall she was not at home.  So she is reporting second hand what her husband must have told her about the the whole thing.

So I think it's safe to say the 100 number is questionable at best.  Is it for this one local department?  Nationwide?  Hyperbole, the same way I might say Dear god I deal with 100s of clueless users every day?

I'm still curious as to why we don' t hear from more Catalanos, though.  If even one department is doing one a week, at that rate, we should have some other people going "Holy fuck the police came to my house the other day..."
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