The U.S. National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have access to servers at Google, Facebook and other major Internet services, collecting audio, video, e-mail and other content for surveillance, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The surveillance is taking place under a classified program called PRISM, which was begun in 2007 to investigate foreign threats to the U.S., the report said. Most of the major Internet services, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, Apple and AOL as well as Google and Facebook, knowingly participate in PRISM, according to the Post.
The report came from a leak by an intelligence officer, who supplied the Post with PowerPoint slides about PRISM, the story said. The newspaper posted those slides with its article.
The story came out just a day after the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. reported that the NSA had been granted broad access to the call records of Verizon Communications customers, also for surveillance purposes.
The NSA is forbidden to investigate U.S. citizens. The PRISM program has procedures to prevent citizens' content from being included in the surveillance, but those procedures aren't strict, according to the report. The agencies don't try to collect all the content from the Internet services, but PRISM allows agents to search for content and pull it out of the servers, the Post said.