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PRISM – It’s Nothing New

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Tuesday June 11, 2013 )

I was surprised by the reaction after some details of the US Government’s PRISM program was revealed.In case you haven’t heard as yet; PRISM is a clandestine (well, not so much now) program run by the US Government that eavesdrops on the communications and data of non-US citizens; including Australians.

There’s been quite an uproar about it in Australia; but I thought this sort of thing was widely known.

Back over a decade ago (and pre-9/11) I remember having many discussions about a similar program called ECHELON. It exists, it isn’t something out of a movie; nor is ECHELON the creation of feverish minds.

I just took it as being a possibility that whatever I do online may be monitored by a government agency – and for the most part, I’ve acted accordingly.

Whether PRISM, ECHELON or any of the other surveillance programs are a good or bad thing is another debate altogether, however; something I found amusing was a recent Pew survey of US folks found they were generally favourable of PRISM.

I wonder how they would feel if they knew the same sorts of programs have the potential to monitor their own communications – and they are.

I’m not saying all this as part of some conspiracy rant; just to underline the fact that the only safe secret is the one you don’t write down or share with others. Your head, to a degree, is the only safe storage medium.

You can use anonymous browsing, “burn” email accounts and such, but the fact is that unless you’re highly skilled, if someone wants to track your online activities, they can – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a government department.

Even on a more innocent (?) level, your online activities are increasingly being tracked. For example, if you’ve ever wondered why you have seen an increase in ads for a certain company or product elsewhere on the web after visiting a specific site on that topic – that’s behavioural targeting.

Added security tip: if you’re dumping a computer, remove the hard-drive; remove the hard drive casing and belt the crap out of the platters with a hammer – same goes for any other information storage device you are disposing of. Back in my computer hardware days, I used to buy second hand bits and pieces and the amount and type of data I found left on drives was astounding.

Remember, the “delete” button is not a safe option – the data can be retrieved.


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