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How Britain's GCHQ Spies On The Entire Internet

New documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden say the British intelligence agency is trying to track all of the Internet's users.

By Evan Thomas | September 26, 2015

Spying on everyone on the Internet is a bit of a daunting task.

But NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents to The Intercept that show British intelligence agency GCHQ has been doing its best since sometime in 2007. (Video via The Guardian)

Operation Karma Police tracks Web browsing histories, phone calls, emails, VoIP and instant messages; all with apparently minimal government oversight.

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GCHQ documents detailing the system show the goal was "either (a) a Web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet."

To get the data, the agency spliced taps into the fiber-optic cables that form the Internet's international backbones and stored it in a database known as the "Black Hole." Between 2007 and 2009, Black Hole vacuumed up raw data for later analysis at rates of as many as 10 billion entries a day. By 2012, it was pulling in 50 billion entries a day, and GCHQ wanted to double that rate.

From Black Hole, the data gets filtered through various tools: MEMORY HOLE tracks search engine queries. MARBLED GECKO tracks mapping services. INFINITE MONKEYS analyzes content posted to message and bulletin boards. (Video via Google)

The new details come as U.K. surveillance officials press for increased reach online. (Video via The Guardian)

But GCHQ declined to address any of the information in The Intercept's report, pointing to its long-standing policy of not commenting on intelligence activities.

This video includes images from Getty Images and the U.K. Ministry of Defense. Music by Frenic / CC BY 3.0.

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