ZDNet bemoaned the failure of journalism in the wake of disclosures this past week regarding the National Security Administration’s surveillance program; they took issue in particular with the Washington Post’s June 7 report. The challenge to journalists at WaPo and other outlets, particularly those who do not have a strong grasp of information technology, can be seen in the reporting around access to social media systems.
Some outlets focused on “direct access.” Others reported on “access,” but were not clear about direct or indirect access.
Yet more reporting focused on awareness of the program and authorization or lack thereof on the part of the largest social media firms cited on the leaked NSA slides.
Journalists are not asking what “access” means in order to clarify what each corporation understands direct and indirect access to mean with regard to their systems.
Does “direct access” mean someone physically camped out on site within reach of the data center?
Does “direct access” mean someone with global administrative rights and capability offsite of the data center? Some might call this remote access, but without clarification, what is the truth?
I don’t know about you but I can drive a Mack truck through the gap between these two questions.
So which “direct access” have the social media firms not permitted? Which “direct access” has been taken without authorization of corporate management? ZDNet focuses carefully on authorization, noting the changes in Washington Post’s story with regard to “knowingly participated,” changed later to read “whose cooperation is essential PRISM operations.”
This begs the same questions with regard to any other form of access which is not direct. Note carefully that a key NSA slide is entitled, “Dates when PRISM Collection Began For Each Provider.” It doesn’t actually say “gained access,” direct or otherwise. Read more