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[liberationtech] NSA has direct access to tech giants' systems for user data, secret ppt reveals

x z xhzhang at
Fri Jun 7 11:48:50 PDT 2013

Hi all,

I have the same feeling with Raven's. It appears that the PRISM program
does exist, and that amateurish Power Point training material is real (so I
take back my "ploy or prank" remark). However, none of this proves
Guardian's headline claim "NSA taps in to internet giants' systems to mine
user data", or "direct access to servers of firms including Google,
Facebook and Apple".

>From reading the four pages of the slides, what is actually in place, is
likely just a data mining system that analyzes information NSA gathered
from these firms via the usual means (which should be of no surprise to any
of us). It's likely that NSA stores information from different providers on
different databases and servers (say, one for Facebook, one for Apple), and
the PRISM system can collect "directly from" these servers. And yes, a $20M
annual budget can handle that, probably half of that if it's not the
government. Guardian and Washington Post grossly misreported this and
misled their readers. After all, most journalists do not have much clue
about technology.

I have hoped people on this mailing list understand better how much it
takes to implement a real "direct access to servers" from firms like
Google, Facebook and Apple, and the ability to do "in-depth surveillance on
live communication". This is a gargantuan task, even for these firms to
build an internal tool like this themselves.

And all these firms "participate" in this (direct tapping) program, and all
denying it? That's enough of conspiracy theory. Get real.

In a previous email Eugen asked he "would reexamine why you are reading
this list". Yes I read this list because I care for internet freedom and
privacy. But we need to have basic sense, in order to fight the good fight.
We do need to limit NSA's power for what they are actually doing, not this
surreal "direct tapping" thing.

It's in our responsibility to stop this Guardian/PRISM junk, and I am very
disappointed that many people on this mailing list do the exact opposite,
i.e. jumping the Guardian bandwagon to promote their own products. (It is
not that I'm against your product or your promoting it, but please do not
use the Guardian story for it).

2013/6/7 Raven Jiang CX <jcx at>

> This is just circumstantial speculation but read
> Given Palantir's rapid expansion and aggressive recruitment, I think this
> guy might be onto something.
> I suspect that what is being described in the slides is not direct
> backdoor access to the live systems, but rather regularly aggregated data
> being sent to a central location to be contextualized using Palantir's
> analytics.
> From the perspective of the analyst working with Palantir's software, he
> can do lookups and cross references between the databases seemingly live.
> At tech talks, Palantir employees will often stress the fact that their
> analytic software comes with built-in privacy controls, i.e. fine-grained
> user permission control so that analysts are given only the specific subset
> of data points or data columns that they need to do their job. Perhaps the
> so-called EULA described in the Washington Post article is really just part
> of the analytics software as opposed to some live Google backdoor API.
> Certainly this would seem a more plausible scenario than direct access
> given the cited budget and denial from the major tech companies of "direct
> access".
> Raven
> On 7 June 2013 10:15, David Miller <david at> wrote:
>> On 7 June 2013 15:13, R. Jason Cronk <rjc at> wrote:
>>>    - The Powerpoint is amateurish  (then again with no budget.....)
>>> "These powerpoint slides are too amateurish to be real"
>> Poe's Law of Powerpoint states:
>> A fundamental constraint of the known universe is that once your
>> organisation grows to more than 100 people, it is impossible to create a
>> parodic Powerpoint deck more amateurish than a Powerpoint deck being
>> genuinely used within said organisation.
>> --
>> Love regards etc
>> David Miller
>> 07854 880 883
>> --
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