PRISM Scandal: What It Is, What it Means to You

edward-snowden

29 year-old Edward SNOWDEN is the man who revealed what appears to be the biggest scandal involving the US government and individual privacies in the name of National Security. The scandal concerns a secret US Government program called PRISM which, with the help of 9 companies, allegedly are spying on “targeted” users since 2007. The nine listed companies are: Apple, Facebook, AOL, Skype, Microsoft, YouTube, Yahoo, Google and PalTalk. PRISM is a program that is destined to gain access to your emails, chat, voice chats, VOIP calls, file transfers, online social network activities.

Official statements from Yahoo, Google and Facebook have been released just a few days after the scandal burst. All companies with carefully worded responses, formerly denied any involvement in such a program, and most have stated that they hand over user information “upon request” by the US Government and that each of these requests are “carefully” reviewed before any information is handed to to the government.

Director of the National Intelligence, James CLAPPER has released a response clarifying what PRISM program entails. One of the report’s key point is that under section 702 of the FISA Act, this form of data collection cannot be used against US citizens, unless they were in communication with a suspected terrorist. Then, what does that mean to international users, and more specifically Africans?

Prism slide 2 from the Washington Post
Prism slide 2 from the Washington Post

The EU signed an agreement called Safe Harbor in 2000 that has allowed for data exchange to take place, despite the 1998 European Commission Directive on Data Protection. All EU countries have signed Safe Harbor except for Germany. As for Africa, South Africa is the only country to have passed a law to protect its internet users (Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, 2002).

Since the disclosure of the NSA’s program, OBAMA has faced serious criticism and has stated that the data collected by PRISM are only “modest encroachments” to privacy and has called to open an investigation on NSA leak. SNOWDEN, who has buckled down in a Hong Kong hotel since revealing the secret program, has stated that he acted as a whistleblower as he, “wanted to inform the public as to which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” After the discussions on cyber security with China, the question now is whether or not China will hand SNOWDEN to the US government, now that he is facing criminal charges and that China has jurisdiction over Hong Kong in matters of National Security.

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