Last night, the Washington Post broke a huge story reporting that the NSA has a secret program for spying on the Internet.
It’s called PRISM.
According to documents obtained by the Post, PRISM allows the NSA to tap directly into the central servers of 9 big Internet companies: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.
A source told the Post that with PRISM, the NSA can “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”
To be able to do that, the NSA would need some seriously impressive “big data” tools to analyse the terabytes of messages, videos, images, and metadata streaming through.
One company that would be able to provide such tools is Silicon Valley tech firm called Palantir.
Not a lot is known about Palantir, a private company that does not say much about who it works with.
On its company website, Palantir says it offers “a suite of software applications for integrating, visualising and analysing the world’s information.”
On another part of its Website, buried deep it in its “DevZone” area for developers, Palantir describes on of those products as “a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir.”
It’s called Prism.
Here’s the full description:
“Prism is a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir. Specifically, it lets you build high-performance Data Engine based providers without writing any code. Instead, you define simple configuration files and then Palantir automatically constructs the data provider and database code for you. This ensures that all data access goes through well tested, high-performance code paths. Also, you can iterate more quickly because you can modify and reload Prism-based data providers without restarting the server.”
Can we say for sure that Palantir’s product, Prism, is the big data engine behind the NSA’s secret tool PRISM?
No, we cannot. A call into Palantir has not been returned. As secretive as Palantir is, we doubt anyone we could reach would confirm much for us, anyway.
But it would certainly be a coincidence if there were a big data NSA program was named PRISM and a Palantir product was named Prism and they were not the same.
The NSA would not be Palantir’s first spying client. It has admitted in the past that one of its clients is the CIA.
The government has done very well on its early stage bet, by the way.
Just nine years old, we’re told Palantir is already worth $5 billion on private markets.
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