Private messages on Facebook may not be as private as users think, and the audience for chats may also be a little larger, according to the latest report on the National Security Agency’s Prism initiative from The Guardian, in which whistleblower Edward Snowden detailed a software program called XKeyscore.
Snowden said in a video interview with The Guardian last month:
I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone — from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, or even the president — if I had a personal email.
Prism goes beyond email, however, as The Guardian reported that the NSA’s XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor other internet activities, including those within social media, adding that an NSA tool called DNI Presenter, which is used to read the content of stored emails, also enables analysts using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages, simply by entering Facebook users’ names and date ranges into a search screen.
Snowden told The Guardian:
It’s very rare to be questioned on our searches, and even when we are, it’s usually along the lines of: “Let’s bulk up the justification.”
The NSA responded with the following statement to The Guardian:
The NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against — and only against — legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.
XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence-collection system.
Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks … In addition, there are multiple technical, manual, and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.
Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.
These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully — to defend the nation and to protect U.S. and allied troops abroad.
Readers: Is Big Brother monitoring your Facebook chats?
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