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What Is PRISM?


There are some technical topics of interest still in the NSA/Snowden/PRISM fuss. As we know, there have been (at least) two NSA programs that have been publicized recently: one program in which they collect the customer billing records from every phone call of most, if not all, cell phone service providers, and the second a program with the overall name PRISM, where Internet traffic is collected at various large providers like Google and Facebook.

This is becoming a really fertile place for finding people in politics and journalism who really don't have the beginning of a clue about the issues, technical or social, that go with what they're attempting to discuss. So, once more into the breach, dear friends, as we try to make sense of what PRISM is really about.

The various releases about PRISM in particular give a picture of an interesting system in which various aspects of data collected, like the famous customer billing records from Verizon, along with data from Google and Facebook and a raft of others are sent through several layers of systems to organize and understand them. If you recall my first NSA article, these are the tools of the expert jigsaw-puzzlers, trying to make a whole bearer bond out of the scraps of bank paper that were extracted from the vacuum bags of the collectors.