The world is once again questioning the dangers of online and our security and personal liberty after a string of cyber crimes and reports in 2013, including the February hackings of more than 250,000 Twitter accounts. The new incident on the cyber scene comes from the National Security Agency and their PRISM surveillance programme to stop future acts of terrorism.
What is PRISM?
Since the news broke from The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 7, after whistleblower Edward Snowden publicly revealed the American government’s plans to his own detriment, speculation and news headlines have been rife. So what exactly is PRISM? The NSA set up the previously unknown programme after the 9/11 attacks in order to obtain phone and internet data from the world’s leading internet companies including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Apple. This online data includes chat exchanges and email content. Although these companies deny their involvement with the programme, the NSA has produced detailed presentations which state otherwise. Barack Obama and the government defend PRISM claiming that America’s national security ‘”cherish the constitution”’ and that the programme was set up to tackle terrorism and maintain security levels.
How will it affect the UK?
Since the news broke, Google has recorded a 6% rise in the number of UK requests for online content to be removed. From the relaxed to the outraged, there has been a mixed reaction to this month’s news. However, there is no denying Britain’s strong ties with America, ones which will undoubtedly affect the UK’s own privacy and relationship with the internet giants.
Both the American and British governments have downplayed the situation. British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement which promised that “law-abiding” citizens in the UK had nothing to fear from recent developments. This followed reports that PRISM gathered data was shared with the Government Communications Headquarters.
In the days which followed the revelations, it seems that MP’s and other individuals in authority are carrying out some damage control with complaints and requests for videos and blogs to be removed. YouTube received the most UK requests for content removal (67.1%) followed by Google AdWords, blogging and web searches.
What will the fallout mean to you and others?
Many are not surprised by the reactions which have followed the news, by either the internet companies or by the governments. Not only will individuals be affected by PRISM but also online companies as a result of the fallout.
The internet companies which have been named are currently in a credibility crunch. This situation may lead to changes in user activity over the following months including less blogging activity, less video uploads and less activity on social media sites. US cloud firms who are looking to expand their business to Europe are also expected to be affected by the news as a lot of the data in question was retrieved from the cloud.
Many feel that the actions taken by the US government goes against the Fourth Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches. This whole incident is likely to tarnish both governments which could jeopardise their future in office. For now, everyone involved can only wait and hope that the uproar surrounding PRISM will die down. Either way, the longevity of the act and its influence is likely to unfold into more breaking news and unrest in the next few months. Watch this space.