PRISM May Be Tracking Your Data – But It’s a Great Deal for Taxpayers

A top-secret slide from the PRISM program, first uncovered by the Washington Post./Washington Post

By now, our readers are likely aware of the Washington Post story on PRISM – a top-secret program authorized  under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which lets US intelligence to gain access to the data from some of the largest sites on the web. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo. YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple. And PalTalk, which most Americans haven’t heard of, but which was very popular during the Arab Spring and is still used by Syrian opposition.

This has predictably caused something of a firestorm, both in Congress and in the general public. But when looking at the slides made public by the Post, we here at Intercepts noticed what is perhaps the most shocking aspect of PRISM.

On slide 5, featured above, there’s a little box putting the price tag of the program at around $20 million.

$20 million.

That’s $20 million for a giant program that captures and analyzes data from nine of the largest websites on the internet. According to web analytics company Alexa Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo are the top four visited sites from the US.  Facebook alone has more than one billion users. In 2011, Google was averaging one billion unique users every month.

And the government is doing this for $20 million? That’s amazing. Forget a scandal- this is a stunning success story of a government program! If this wasn’t top secret you would see Pentagon officials running around the Hill touting how cheaply they managed to make such a wide-reaching national security apparatus.

So look on the bright side. The government may be keeping tabs on all your data… but at least it’s getting a good deal.

Aaron Mehta

Aaron Mehta

Air Warfare Correspondent at Defense News
Aaron covers the Air Force for Defense News. In his spare time, he tweets about the Air Force for Defense News. Follow him @AaronMehta
Aaron Mehta