What ‘direct access’ means

The term ‘direct access’ seems to be the central issue when it comes to the coordinated PR campaign from Silicon Valley, and a new article from The Washington Post seems to clarify it all quite a bit. “Intelligence community sources said that this description [i.e., direct access], although inaccurate from a technical perspective, matches the experience of analysts at the NSA. From their workstations anywhere in the world, government employees cleared for PRISM access may ‘task’ the system and receive results from an Internet company without further interaction with the company’s staff.” This seems to explain why the leaked official documents speak of ‘direct access’ even though the companies themselves deny it. The leaked documentation probably wasn’t written by a technical expert, so he simply used a term that describes the end result (i.e., access whenever, wherever, whatever), but not the actual technical workings (i.e., the system does not directly tap into the companies’ own servers). Update: The Guardian has released a new slide from the NSA slide deck: it speaks of “collection directly from the servers” of several US companies, like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and so on. It also mentions directly tapping into the very cables that carry data to and from the US. I wonder how long Silicon Valley will continue to lie and/or legalese around the issue. Man up for once.


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