Prism and privacy: What could they know about me?


Leaked documents have suggested the US government is able to access details of smartphone and internet activity under the Prism scheme. But what can be found out about users in the UK and what other information is held?

The Prism allegations suggest US intelligence agencies had direct access to the servers of nine firms including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype and Apple.

The Guardian has reported that the UK’s electronic surveillance agency, GCHQ, had been able to see user communications data from the American internet companies, because it had access to Prism.

Going online

When you visit a website, your IP address, type of machine and screen size can easily be ascertained.

The website can also see how you got to the site – by what search term or the last website you were on. Your location can be found by cross-referring your IP address with other data.

If you are using a work computer, it’s easy to find out who your employer is. It is an entirely automated process, says technology expert Tom Cheesewright. But an IP address is actually not a foolproof way to follow individuals, he adds.

A user’s IP address on a personal computer can change regularly, he says. For this reason, most companies will only use the IP address to get a vague idea of where their visitors are coming from.

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Blog English, Cyber Security