Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Guardian reports on NSA tool "XKeyscore"; is it really "Big Brother"?

The Guardian is reporting that an NSA system called “XKeyscore” has the capability of monitoring almost everything  user does on the Internet.  This could include keystrokes (hence private emails or restricted social media posts) and search arguments.  The NSA says it does not normally use this capability against domestic Americans, unless there is some kind of connection to an international terrorist or enemy.
The Guardian story by Glenn Greenwald is here

Apparently the details of this application were leaked by Edward Snowden.
There seems to be little supervision on an analyst’s deciding to use the tool, however.  It would be possible for an analyst to use it in bad faith, out of a personal vendetta.  Somehow the tool can end-around even the procedures that are supposed to be part of FISA.

Tech Feed has a thorough explanation on YouTube of how XKeyscore works.

 Much of the enormous volume of data is kept only briefly.  It would be possible, for example, to identify every  user who had visited a particular site (like this blog) in a recent time period, and correlate with other activity or searches.

Although the practical risk to an average Internet user is low, it’s possible or conceivable that the tool could lead to an individual’s receiving unusual scrutiny from law enforcement, in combination with metadata factors that “look bad”. 

And I recall writing a program called "BigBR" when I worked for Univac in the early 1970s, to monitor programmer system use.  

Later Wednesday, CNN reported that NSA says that XKeyscore is used only with data already lawfully collected; it doesn't collect new data that wasn't there before.  NSA says this is an analysis issue, not a data collection issue.

I would have been a good NSA or CIA analyst.  I do like to connect the dots!

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