The NSA Sucks More Than You Thought

*National Surveillance Agency

Wikimedia Commons (seal and camera)/Joey Carmichael

The Guardian just exposed the NSA’s “widest-reaching” surveillance program, “XKeyscore.”

While most of us keep going about our internet lives as if that pesky NSA thing never happened–demonstrating a “general giddy sense that privacy is kind of stupid,” as Gary Shteyngart aptly describes it–the Guardian is making it harder and harder to uphold that complacency.

Today, the Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald exposed yet another NSA program called “XKeyscore.” And it sounds bad. Really bad. Per Greenwald:

XKeyscore… is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Kinda makes PRISM seem like child’s play.

The Guardian‘s report is based on an NSA Powerpoint detailing the surveillance program. Some of the lowlights:

  • no authorization required
  • real-time surveillance of any target’s internet activity
  • capacity to target “US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant…” the Guardian reports
  • if an analyst wants to look back on a target’s Google Maps search history, for example, he or she can: “XKEYSCORE extracts and databases these events including all web-based searches which can be retrospectively queried” (slide 20)
  • near-comprehensive access to a target’s activity, from email to chat to accessed files to social media activity
  • open access for analysts to the databases
  • one powerpoint slide titled, “What Can Be Stored?” boasts “Anything you wish to extract”
  • In 2012, there were at least 41 billion total records collected and stored in XKeyscore for a single 30-day period,” the Guardian reports

Flip through the Powerpoint to see more, and read the Guardian’s full exposé.

Of course, surveillance in the United States is a long-standing tradition. But the extent to which the NSA’s analysts appear to overstep the law–something at least one intelligence official acknowledges–is unnerving, to put it lightly. That’s okay, though–privacy is stupid, right?


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