Leaked documents show UK Karma Police program was just as intrusive as the NSA -- and spied on the US


There have been countless stories about the activities of the NSA and the revelations by Edward Snowden continue. A new batch of documents leaked by the former NSA contractor show that GCHQ ran a program called Karma Police that was used to "build a web-browsing profile for every visible user on the internet".

If that sounds a little sinister, that's because it is. You would think that we might have become hardened to this sort of thing, but it is still comes as a slight surprise to learn of the extent of surveillance that has been taking place. The UK government has been building profiles of web users around the world based on their browsing histories (news, porn, social networking, and so on), monitoring email and Skype communication and more for the last seven years.


The documents have been leaked to The Intercept, and they show that surveillance was generating massive quantities of data. By 2012, GCHQ was storing 50 billion metadata records per day and the plan was to increase this to 100 billion per day. One surveillance program was used to home in on people using internet-based radio stations to disseminate what are described as "radical Islamic ideas". Data gathered by Karma Police was used to identify individuals and see what other online activities they had engaged in.

Much like the NSA, GCHQ gathered data about everyone and anyone. By tapping into key internet cables, the agency was able to store more than 1.1 trillion pieces of data in Black Hole, it's huge information repository. In addition to browsing histories and communication logs, GCHQ also gathered information about people using tools to surf the web 'anonymously' and even looked into cookies.

The agency was -- and undoubtedly still is -- able to identify individuals using a series of interconnected systems; Karma Police was just part of the story. The complexity of the systems is such that a single piece of information is sufficient to home in on an individual and monitor them more closely. As pointed out by The Intercept, a solitary piece of information might not be particularly revealing, but that data acts as a key that unlocks much more.

And people wonder why there is a push for the adoption of encryption...

Photo credit: MaluStudio / Shutterstock

28 Responses to Leaked documents show UK Karma Police program was just as intrusive as the NSA -- and spied on the US

  1. Nicole King says:

    The really shocking part of this is that there appears no-body and no body that is able to make GCHQ account for and to justify what they are doing.

    • SunwolfNC says:

      Much like the NSA and other organizations, I'd wager that no one holds them accountable because those that can, are either so deeply involved that they'd be burned, too, or, they simply just don't care about us 'little people'

  2. barely_normal says:

    The part that shocks is that there are so few that exhibit the righteous indignation which should accompany news such as this. People have become used to the idea that we are under constant surveillance, but seem to feel nothing can be done about it.

    What if, in the same way that Congress conducts litmus tests when interviewing Supreme Court nominees, the voting public would actually take the time to establish that the people they were going to vote for would make certain that this unwanted surveillance would stop?. These litmus tests, conducted informally over a number of opportunities, could firmly establish the candidate as "electable".

    Of course, it would take a greater degree of attention than the average voter currently shows, but if awareness were to be raised, and people encouraged those they knew to do this, it could happen relatively quickly.

    • romath says:

      Not sure what litmus test you could be thinking of. This is capitalism, the rule of a small part of the population over the rest. Spying on the latter in considered necessary and in good part is nothing new - check the French government's archives. No vote is going to change that. As for the Supreme Court, all Senators want to hear is that candidates are loyal to capital - and have a conservative to maintream record to back that up.

    • psycros says:

      I think it would take a core group of wealthy Americans (and possibly Britons) to start a movement to take back our privacy. Highly visible ads showing the voting records of anti-privacy and pro-privacy politicians would definitely get some attention. With enough donations we could bombard the airwaves in the weeks leading up to elections. By putting the issue on the front burner and showing exactly who's on the side of the law and the American citizen, lazy minds could be shaken into awareness.

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  3. BoltmanLives says:

    NO surprise at all. EVERYTHING you do online is being watched EVERYTHING!
    Privacy is a myth including Apples "privacy crusade"

    Just a matter of IF you step over the line or not.

  4. Frederick Begbeder says:

    Just Big Data Solutions.

  5. Hall9000 says:

    So, if Karma Police is a spying agency, is that the same as Karma Chameleon? I have absolutely no shame!

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  7. computershack says:

    Author outraged at the fact the UK was spying on the USA but the USA spying on the UK as was revealed is just fine?

    • Hall9000 says:

      Well, in his defense, Mark isn't an american. :-P As for me am an equal opportunity basher. I hate any and all spying agency.

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