- Instagram revokes Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s verified status Wednesday 5:23 PM
- Transgender people suffer when debates over their rights are framed as ‘distractions’ Wednesday 4:57 PM
- Hulu with Live TV just hiked its prices Wednesday 4:05 PM
- Hacker infiltrates Nest cameras to gain PewDiePie subscribers Wednesday 2:37 PM
- YouTube time traveler claims MLK’s granddaughter will be the last U.S. president Wednesday 2:30 PM
- Media coverage of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitch cameo erases Chelsea Manning Wednesday 1:39 PM
- New Alexa skill lets you sing with Queen’s Freddie Mercury Wednesday 1:13 PM
- Netflix is the first streaming platform to join MPAA Wednesday 12:59 PM
- Can you spot an email from a hacker? Wednesday 12:46 PM
- Gina Rodriguez cries over being called anti-Black, gets dragged for ‘fake tears’ Wednesday 12:21 PM
- Boots Riley explains why he got snubbed by the Oscars Wednesday 12:20 PM
- Review: ‘Buffy’ returns with a modern comic book reboot Wednesday 11:47 AM
- You’re about to see a lot more Netflix on your Instagram Wednesday 11:32 AM
- Covington students defend blackface video as ‘school spirit’ Wednesday 11:30 AM
- This YouTuber reportedly filmed himself abusing his cat—and his channel is still active Wednesday 11:18 AM
U.K. spy agency runs massive surveillance program named after Radiohead song
Radiohead, by the way, hates surveillance.
The British spy agency GCHQ recorded the browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet” in a mass surveillance operation known as Karma Police, according to a new report in the Intercept based on more than two dozen previously undisclosed documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) swept up billions of metadata records every day, without warrants or court orders, beginning in 2008. These records included information about emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, social media interactions, and instant messages, according to to the Intercept.
The newly published documents show that as of 2012, GCHQ was taking in more than 50 billion records per day through Karma Police, and that number was rising fast through its tapping of the fiber-optic cables used to transport Internet traffic around the globe.
GCHQ’s surveillance targets ranged from the United States and Canada to Germany and its own homeland. Almost every country in the world was represented.
In 2013, Snowden said that U.K. surveillance was “worse than the U.S.”
The billions of pieces of data that GCHQ gathers are stored in a repository called the Black Hole, which, by 2009, held more than a trillion such records.
The U.K. intelligence agency even profiled some specific people and dissected their browsing habits, including their pornography interests and their favorite social media networks.
The Karma Police mass-surveillance program takes its name from the seminal 1997 song by English band Radiohead, which begins with the following memorable lyrics: “Karma police, arrest this man. He talks in maths, he buzzes like a fridge, he’s like a detuned radio.”
Radiohead’s members are notoriously opposed to surveillance.
GCHQ used the program to profile users listening to radio shows that broadcast the Quran, zeroing in on radio sermons from Iraq and Egypt that made their way into the U.K. through the Internet.
Karma Police works in tandem with another system called Mutant Broth, which identified individuals based on their IP addresses and associated data stored in the Black Hole.
The new report from the Intercept also revealed several other U.K. surveillance programs. Social Anthropoid analyzes metadata from emails and social media chats. Memory Hole spies on search engine queries. Marbled Gecko watches targets use Google Maps. Infinite Monkeys watches and analyzes data from Internet forums. Tempora collects tens of billions of pieces of data per day from emails, voice calls, and instant messages.
The vast scope of the collection programs calls to mind the chorus from Karma Police: “This is what you get when you mess with us. For a minute there, I lost myself.”
Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.