Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and others learned pretty much when we all did about the latest Washington scandal, when it was reported recently that the National Security Agency (NSA) had gathered phone records of millions of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) cell phones over the last couple of years in a massive sweep of data – something that has right-to-privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates screaming from the rooftops.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) does not have every American subscribed to its services, but users on the wireless carrier certainly have access to millions of other phones numbers in the U.S. and around the world. For the last several days since this revelation was reported, the White House has been claiming that this data mining has been an ongoing legal practice for several years, since the adoption and re-authorization of the Patriot Act. Well, according to a senior security officer, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and the rest, while they were learning about this Verizon case, had apparently been snooped on themselves.
A new report came out early Friday when a senior security official said in an interview that the NSA not only was gathering cell phone data from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), but it had also been gathering some intimate details, shall we say, about users of at least nine major Internet companies, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). How intimate are we talking here? This isn’t just gathering data on cell phone numbers, locations and names of people owning those cell phones.
As the security officer was quoted, “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.” The report said this operation, which the government called PRISM, apparently involved the government having access to the servers of these various Internet companies – not only Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), but also Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Skype, YouTube and AOL, Inc. (NYSE:AOL) among others – and tracking individuals’ web habits through emails, audio, video and photos. The government claims it was not about Americans, but was trying to track foreign nationals.
Were these tech companies complicit in this operation? What did they know?