In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
For those of you who haven’t kept up, the National Security Agency’s Prism program has been in the news. Prism provides the NSA with access to data on the servers of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), etc, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, etc.
Prism is just a part of the NSA’s larger mass electronic surveillance program that covers every possible path someone might use to communicate; tapping raw data as it flows through fiber optic cables and Internet peering points, copying the addressees on all letters you physically mail, all credit card purchases, your phone calls and your location (courtesy your smartphone.)
All hell broke loose when Edward Snowden leaked all this to press. Given my talks on the Secret History of Silicon Valley I was interviewed on NPR about the disclosure that the NSA said they had a new capability that tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism. Like most Americans I said, “I didn’t remember getting the memo that the 4th amendment to our constitution had been cancelled.”
But while the interviewer focused on the Skype revelation, I thought the most interesting part was the other claim, “that the National Security Agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.” Say what?? They can see the plaintext on my computer before I encrypt it? That defeats any/all encryption methods. How could they do that?