A part of the government’s surveillance antics were revealed by Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on NSA’s PRISM program. Since the leaks, there has been a lot of debate on how the government is spying through major internet companies. In the PRISM saga, big companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Yahoo were named, though all of them denied knowing about the program. CNET now reports, citing people familiar with the matter, that the federal government is demanding “major internet companies” to hand over their users’ passwords. The report doesn’t say exactly which companies have received such requests.

If we were to consider, for the sake of argument, that the government is indeed asking for passwords, what would it do with them? The obvious answer is to spy on user data such as emails, messages and other private data. It would also have full access to users’ accounts, impersonating users will become very easy. The report also says that the government has demanded that internet companies hand over encryption keys, a process that is used to strengthen encrypted information such as passwords. The FBI reportedly did not comment on this report, whereas Microsoft and Google are said to have declined to mention if they have received any such requests. Spokespersons of both companies said that they don’t turn over users’ passwords.

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