by Sarah Lazare
staff writer

January 27, 2014

from CommonDreams Website




NSA docs exposed by Snowden

reveal British government

gave lessons to US on cyber surveillance




(Photo: AP)

The British government gave the U.S. lessons in how to spy on users of popular websites, including Youtube and Facebook, in real-time and without the consent of users or cyber companies.

This is according to a report released Monday afternoon by a team of NBC journalists, including Glenn Greenwald who is listed as a special contributor, based on NSA documents exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The report unearths a slide presentation (Psychology - A New Kind of SIGDEV) by British intelligence agency GCHQ, given to their U.S. counterparts in August 2012, detailing their "Squeaky Dolphin" program that allows them to glean information from,

"the torrent of electronic data that moves across fiber optic cable and display it graphically on a computer dashboard," according to the NBC article.

Documents taken from the NSA by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News detail how British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time.



In the slides, published by NBC, GCHQ officials tout their abilities to conduct,

"Broad, real-time monitoring of online activity of: Youtube Video Views, URLs Liked on Facebook, and Blogspot/Blogger Visits."

While the presenters stated that the program was for purposes of identifying broad trends, not individual information, NBC journalists say they were told by cyber experts that,

"once the information has been collected, intelligence agencies have the ability to extract some user information as well."

Spokespeople from Facebook and Google said they were not aware that governments were surveying this information and they had not granted permission.

GCHQ is apparently not the only agency wielding these online surveillance tools.


The NBC report states,

"According to a source knowledgeable about the agency's operations, the NSA does analysis of social media similar to that in the GCHQ demonstration."

The report comes the same day as revelations of NSA and GCHQ (below report) spying on personal data leaked from smartphone apps.





NSA, GCHQ Using Data

...from 'Leaky' Smartphone Apps to Spy

by Andrea Germanos

staff writer

January 27, 2014

from CommonDreams Website



"Golden Nuggets"

to gather data include

Google Maps, Angry Birds,

uploading photos to social media sites...



As part of their arsenal of spying tools, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, are sucking up personal data leaked from smartphone apps, according to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.


One of the apps the NSA and GCHQ used

to gather data is the popular game "Angry Birds."

(Photo: Jared Cherup/cc/flickr)



The newest global surveillance revelations made possible by Snowden were published Monday in a partnership of the Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica.

Smartphone users may have numerous apps on their phones to play games, navigate and use social networking sites, but these data-using and data-gathering tools also appear to be providing a treasure trove of information for the NSA and GCHQ to exploit.

According to their reporting, the spy agencies collaborated to work out how to best obtain and store all the data, which could include,

  • users' age

  • geolocation

  • sexual orientation

  • address books

  • marital status

  • number of children,

...and other personal information - from the burgeoning number of from iPhone and Android apps.

One app GCHQ specified as being amongst its targets for gathering data is the popular game AngryBirds, while a 2010 slide from the NSA seen by the news agencies titled "Golden Nugget!" says that a,

"target uploading a photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device" is a "perfect scenario."

The Guardian reports:

In practice, most major social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, strip photos of identifying location metadata (known as EXIF data) before publication.


However, depending on when this is done during upload, such data may still, briefly, be available for collection by the agencies as it travels across the networks.


(Photo: niallkennedy/cc/flickr)



Another goldmine app for surveillance listed was Google Maps.


From the Times and ProPublica:

Intelligence agencies collect so much data from the app that,

"you'll be able to clone Google's database" of global searches for directions, according to a top-secret N.S.A. report from 2007.


"It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a G.C.H.Q. system," a secret 2008 report by the British agency says.

The pathways for the NSA and GCHQ to gather all this app data was already established, ProPublica and the Times explain:

The agencies have long been intercepting earlier generations of cellphone traffic like text messages and metadata from nearly every segment of the mobile network - and, more recently, mobile traffic running on Internet pipelines.


Because those same networks carry the rush of data from leaky apps, the agencies have a ready-made way to collect and store this new resource.

The documents did not reveal how many users were affected or how often the collection took place, nor did they state that companies provided the user data to the spy agencies.

Part of a statement from the NSA provided to the Guardian said,

"We collect only those communications that we are authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes - regardless of the technical means used by the targets."