Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian has published a massive report detailing a NSA program called XKeyscore that is the spy agency’s “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the Internet, according to internal NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden.
We broke down how the system allows for NSA analysts to search “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet,” including metadata, the content of emails, the content of social media, Internet browsing activity and more.
Greenwald notes one thing that is sure to freak out privacy-minded Facebook users. From The Guardian:
An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.
An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.
One situation that this system could have been used is the case of Brandon Raub, a former Marine who was detained — and then committed to a psychiatric ward — in August 2012 based on Facebook posts deemed “terrorist in nature.”
At the time Raub’s lead attorney, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, told Business Insider that the posts cited as “terrorist in nature” were part of a private Facebook game called Illuminati that Brandon was playing with his brother and sister — and that the government spied on the chats.
It’s unclear if the XKeyscore system was used in Raub’s case, but the documents leaked by Snowden reveal that it could have been.
Nevertheless, the new revelations should make any social media user wonder how much customer data is available to U.S. intelligence agencies.
In March, during a presentation to GigaOm conference, the CIA’s chief technology officer Ira “Gus” Hunt said:
“Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever. It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human generated information.”
One more note: The slide below says the NSA is interested in HTTP because “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet uses HTTP.”
That raises an obvious question (to which the obvious answer is “No.): Are terrorists typical Internet users?
A NSA slide from the XKeyscore training documents.