NSA Collects and Stores Web History of Millions of Users, Creates Profiles of U.S. Citizens
The online activity of millions of Internet users is being stored by the National Security Agency (NSA), allowing the spy agency to build profiles of individuals, including many Americans.
The Guardian reported that the NSA keeps for at least one year the metadata belonging to millions of people who surf the Web, even if they are not persons of interest to the agency.
Metadata can amount to virtually anything a user does online, including shopping, email activity, storing information in personal accounts, creating passwords, and browsing of websites.
Such information can provide the NSA with “a detailed picture of an individual’s life,” James Ball wrote at The Guardian.
The newspaper’s reporting, as well as another story published by The New York Times over the weekend, contradicted the Obama administration’s assertions that the NSA only keeps messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting.
An NSA document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to The Guardian that the spy agency stores metadata in a repository named “Marina.”
“The Marina metadata application tracks a user’s browser experience, gathers contact information/content and develops summaries of target,” the document, which amounted to a user’s guide for NSA agents, states. “This tool offers the ability to export the data in a variety of formats, as well as create various charts to assist in pattern-of-life development.”
The agency has been using its huge collection of metadata since 2010 to build “sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information,” the Times’ James Risen and Laura Poitras wrote.
At one time the NSA only created profiles of foreigners it was watching. But officials decided to include Americans as part of their “discover and track” operations to find connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States. This policy shift occurred even though there were internal concerns that Americans’ privacy rights might be violated in the process.
To Learn More:
NSA Stores Metadata of Millions of Web Users for Up to a Year, Secret Files Show (by James Ball, The Guardian)
N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens (by James Risen and Laura Poitras, New York Times)
How Extensive is NSA Phone and Internet Surveillance…The Latest Revelations (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
U.S. Spies Collect 3 Billion Pieces of Intelligence a Day from Computer and Telephone Networks Worldwide (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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