If you take certain steps to mask your identity online, such as using the encryption service TOR, or even investigating an alternative to the buggy Windows operating system, you're all but asking for "deep" monitoring by the NSA…
According to a recent report from the German media outlet Tagesschau, a group of TOR affiliates working with Tagesschau looked into the source code for [the NSA's] XKeyscore. They found that nine servers running TOR, including one at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were under constant NSA surveillance. The code also revealed some of the behaviors that users could undertake to immediately be tagged or "fingerprinted" for so-called deep packet inspection, an investigation into the content of data packages you send across the Internet, such as emails, web searches and browsing history.
If you are located outside of the U.S., Canada, the U.K. or one of the so-called Five Eyes countries partnering with the NSA in its surveillance efforts, then visiting the TOR website triggers an automatic fingerprinting. In other words, simply investigating privacy-enhancing methods from outside of the United States is an act worthy of scrutiny and surveillance according to rules that make XKeyscore run. Another infraction: hating Windows…
If you visit the forum page for the popular Linux Journal, dedicated to the open-source operating system Linux, you could be fingerprinted regardless of where you live because the XKeystore source code designates the Linux Journal as an "extremist forum." Searching for the Tails, operating system, another Windows alternative popular among human rights watchers, will also land you on the deep-packet inspectee list.
The whole Defense One article is worth your attention.
I do wonder if my regular use of DuckDuckGo for searches worries the folks over at the NSA? For more background, see my article, "How to Keep Your Government From Spying On You." See also my collegue Scott Shackford's excellent post from yesterday on just how "inadvertant" the NSA's spying on American citizens really is.
Addendum: Should also direct your attention to my colleague Zenon Evans' thorough analysis, "Value Online Privacy? NSA Classifies You As An "Extremist," Collects More Than Metadata."