Appalling, yet not surprising (which, itself, is appalling).
Spokespeople from some of the tech companies are denying involvement, but I don’t trust those denials at all: not only have they left a lot of potential loopholes in the wording, but the post-9/11 U.S. federal government, especially via the executive branch under Presidents Bush and Obama, has instituted conditions under which they can order online businesses to disclose user information and prevent them from ever disclosing the order’s existence or the actions taken.
PRISM claims to only be intended for monitoring “foreign” communications, but that’s just lip service: they have access to everything, they try to establish that a target may be foreign, and then they collect two degrees of Kevin Bacon out from them even if it includes Americans.
Let’s see if Obama has anything to say about this. And, more importantly, let’s see if he takes any action to restore reasonable rights to our citizens and businesses. My guess: he might say something promising, but probably not; either way, he won’t actually do anything about it. (Not that any other viable candidates would have.)
Times like this show the great value, to society as a whole, of widely available cryptography and open-source software. Even people with nothing to hide shouldn’t tolerate or permit overreaching government spying.