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Exposed: Covert, Real-Time Spying on Youtube, Facebook, Blogs

NSA docs exposed by Snowden reveal British gov't gave lessons to US on cyber surveillance

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(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 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 spying on personal data leaked from smartphone apps.

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