Should YouTube creators be worried about PRISM, the recently leaked National Security Agency’s data collection program? In short, absolutely. The program, which gathers user data from major tech companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook, also stretches to Google and in turn YouTube.
To fully understand how the existence of PRISM harms not only YouTube creators, but the YouTube community as a whole, first we must look at what PRISM actually is.
According to the Washington Post, who broke this story yesterday: “The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies.” The Post adds that the NSA is doing this in order to obtain audio and video chats, email correspondence, photographs, and several other varieties of digital data.
Among the nine major internet companies, PRISM taps into Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.
The court-approved procedure is aimed at tracking foreign communications that often are rerouted through U.S. servers. An NSA officer told the Post, “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” when asked about PRISM.
Strangest of all is the miscommunication between the leading internet companies and the NSA. The Post writes:
“In exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies such as Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a ‘directive’ from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA.”
While this would seem damning enough for the internet companies we frequent so often, it turns out that many of them are unaware of PRISM or are simply playing dumb. In a statement, Google explained, “Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data,” while Yahoo and Apple also issued similar statements.
So, why should creators be worried about PRISM? The answer is simple enough: This secret government program monitors almost everything you do online, including what you search for using Google or YouTube. It is a totally backdoor route to gathering information about you and your web habits without express permission or any kind of warrant.
For YouTube creators, being interactive on every internet platform from Facebook to Google+ is paramount. This means that your digital footprint is deeper than your average internet user’s. Whether or not you have anything to hide, the information that you are broadcasting in private or otherwise is completely open to government data mining without you even knowing it.
As a community that is largely defined by their online engagement, this breach in digital privacy should be felt especially hard.
Twitter still seems to be at a level of non-compliance with PRISM, yet if mega companies like Apple and Microsoft were unable to hold out when the program launched in 2007, it’s hard to believe anyone stands a chance.
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