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Is NSA Prism the New FBI Carnivore?

NSAFrom the 'Uncle Sam is Watching' files:

Lots of concern and talk in the last couple of days over the Washington Post's leaked government story on PRISM.

The TL;dr version is that PRISM was/is an NSA operation that routes American's private information to the NSA where it can be analyzed in the interest of national security.

While the revelation about NSA PRISM is new - the fact that the U.S. Government has active programs to surveil the Internet for email and otherwise is not.

Remember Carnivore?

Back in 2005 it was revealed that the FBI had to abandon it's own Internet surveillance effort known as Carnivore. With Carnivore, the FBI was quite literally injesting email and Internet content en masse from the U.S .

Officially known as the Digital Collection System 1000 (DCS-1000), Carnivore captures data traffic that flows through an Internet service provider (ISP). The system prompted a flurry of criticism from privacy advocates when it was announced in 2000 during the Clinton administration.

At the time that Carnivore was shut down, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) speculated that, "FBI's need for Carnivore-like Internet surveillance tools is decreasing, likely because ISPs are providing Internet traffic information directly to the government."

Eight years later, it looks like EPIC was right - since it would appear based on the WaPo report that the NSA has been getting info directly from providers.

I saw the head of the NSA,  General Alexander speak at Defcon last year and he's slotted to speak as a keynote at Black Hat this year. I wonder if he'll actually show up now given the revelation of PRISM.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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