The British Government Knows Your Fave Porn Destinations

Along with your other web-browsing habits


"This is what you'll get …"

It's probably impossible for even the most privacy obsessed of citizens to be properly outraged by Edward Snowden document releases any longer. There's little possibility that any information about what level of surveillance Western countries have used against its own citizens will come as a surprise. If it turned out that the government was able to extract citzens' entire DNA strands from their fingerprints and evaluate their entire genetic code, many would nod and say, "It figures." I don't want to say it's impossible to have a crazy conspiracy about government surveillance that cannot possibly be true, but it's certainly a lot harder than it once was.

Nevertheless, it's still important to keep documenting what we find out. Today The Intercept has a new report on a program by England's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), their surveillance agency. It's actually not very surprising news at all, but it matters. The GCHQ had a program to document the online web browsing habits of everybody on the Internet. This wasn't just folks in their own country, nor suspected terrorists. It included people of all countries, and was done without any sort of warrant. The program is called KARMA POLICE:

The agency used a sample of nearly 7 million metadata records, gathered over a period of three months, to observe the listening habits of more than 200,000 people across 185 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Germany.

A summary report detailing the operation shows that one aim of the project was to research "potential misuse" of Internet radio stations to spread radical Islamic ideas.

GCHQ spies from a unit known as the Network Analysis Center compiled a list of the most popular stations that they had identified, most of which had no association with Islam, like France-based Hotmix Radio, which plays pop, rock, funk and hip-hop music.

They zeroed in on any stations found broadcasting recitations from the Quran, such as a popular Iraqi radio station and a station playing sermons from a prominent Egyptian imam named Sheikh Muhammad Jebril. They then used KARMA POLICE to find out more about these stations' listeners, identifying them as users on Skype, Yahoo, and Facebook.

The summary report says the spies selected one Egypt-based listener for "profiling" and investigated which other websites he had been visiting. Surveillance records revealed the listener had viewed the porn site Redtube, as well as Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Google's blogging platform Blogspot, the photo-sharing site Flickr, a website about Islam, and an Arab advertising site.

Read the whole, lengthy analysis here. It will make you even more paranoid about website "cookies," if you aren't already.

As for how the UK's anti-terrorism efforts are playing out, yesterday The Guardian noted that a student of a counter-terrorism program at Staffordshire University was investigated to determine whether he was a terrorist after he was seen reading a book about terrorism in the college's library (while being a brown person named Mohammad). Obviously, these are readings you are probably are expected to do if you are studying ways to counter terrorism. Officials apologized and blamed the vagueness of a law in the United Kingdom intended to fight "radicalization" on college campuses.

Also, "Karma Police":