NSA/GCHQ Use Lolcats To Discuss What They Learn By Spying On All Of Our YouTube Views And Facebook Likes

from the squeaky-dolphins-and-lolcats dept

Just hours after the NY Times/the Guardian and Pro Publica released their stories about Snowden documents revealing the NSA and GCHQ spying on mobile apps, NBC News, working with Glenn Greenwald, revealed a different bunch of Snowden documents concerning how the NSA and GCHQ are collecting unencrypted data concerning YouTube views, Facebook likes and Twitter messages via the taps they have on various internet backbone cables. These are not from the companies themselves, but rather because the data travels unencrypted across the internet, which the NSA and GCHQ grab because they can:
The NBC News report includes some sort of bizarre presentation (mostly images, without the associated text) concerning using this information to understand the psychology of folks on the internet. They even use Lolcats. Yes, in one of the strangest sights you may see, here's a "top secret" lolcat image used by the NSA.
According to the report, GCHQ insists that when it's scooping up this kind of data, it's just using it in the aggregate to look up interesting data, connections and trends, rather than spying on anyone individually, but of course, once they have that data, if someone becomes "of interest", it's not difficult to go back and dig through it.

The reporters reached out to multiple tech companies, who note that they had nothing to do with this. That's true, as it seems clear that the information was gleaned from the taps placed on the backbone, with the help of the giant telcos, rather than the internet companies. However, at this point, it seems time for any company to recognize that if any bit of data is not being encrypted, the NSA/GCHQ is looking through it. Google, once again, seems particularly upset to discover this was going on, after it had pushed back on attempts by the UK to set up data retention rules for this kind of purpose -- when it's clear that GCHQ was already doing it anyway.
A source close to Google added that Google was “shocked” because the company had pushed back against British legislation that would have required Google to store its metadata and other information for U.K. government use. The legislation, introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2012, was publicly repudiated by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2013 and has never become law. May hopes to reintroduce a modified version this spring.

“It’s extremely surprising,” said the source, “that while they were pushing for the data via the law, they might have simultaneously been using their capability to grab it anyway.”
While it may have been reasonable in the past to assume that if the government wasn't asking for this information via the front door, the info was safe, given both of the big stories of the day, it seems that every online company needs to get much more serious about encryption.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:06pm

    Lolcats

    Srs Bizness

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    We can haz all the emails, likes, texts, & hate on youtubes?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    A Non-Mouse, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Lolcats

    PsychLOLgy FTW!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Very professional!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    edpo, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:32pm

    Squeaky Dolphin

    That Squeaky Dolphin slide highlights how absurd the scope of the NSA's illegal and immoral surveillance really is. If you scoop up all the Youtube and Facebook "likes" in the universe, that data is only useful if you feed *which* likes matter into the algorithm. But if you know *which* likes matter, you didn't need to scoop up all the data in the first place since you could just go straight to those and build a case for a warrant or find probable cause to go any further. Old-fashioned, tailored investigations end up being the right thing all along, without having to violate the Constitutional and moral rights of everyone in the U.S.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    "Google, once again, seems particularly upset to discover this was going on,...."

    Well shit. They gotta put on a good show to project the illusion they aren't connected at the hip with the feds - a fact painfully obvious to those whose heads aren't inserted up Google's asspucker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Anyone else notice OOTB is missing out today on really good material?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:47pm

    How long before this data is mined to guide politicians as to what they can get away with? How long before its used to guide political campaigns? How long before it is used to nip protest in the bud? About the only use for bulk data is in political manipulation of a population, either by the spies, or their political masters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    diane, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 1:57pm

    These are not from the companies themselves, but rather because the data travels unencrypted across the internet, which the NSA and GCHQ grab because they can


    That is a stunningly disingenuous, or naive, comment, as the NSA and those who own Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, PayPal, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, et al, are of the exact same fiend ilk and aid and abet one another, even if they don’t trust one another.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    Re: "Anyone else notice OOTB is missing out today on really good material?"

    Glad to be mentioned and missed, but there's no good material, just lame political blather.

    Besides, having stoked fanboys to point where my screen name is featured front page on the weekend, and they're daily compelled to mention my absence, er, out of the blue, I'm pleased to sit and watch them flounder without me...

    Techdirt: a sore for site eyes. (90 of 192)

    10:02:47[l-5-2]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    Trying to understand the psyche of the public, to better control the public

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    Oh, and viewing youtube videos makes you a terrorist now, apparently, and liking something must be an equivelant to a terrorist act, i guess

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:31pm

    Who knew Facebook likes were an aspect of terrorism? So when are all these likes going to get together and build some sort of bomb or plan some sort of dastardly deed?

    Talk about security minded apps. Just look, Lolscats must be highly rated for security. Geeze the things you learn at Techdirt. And here all those folks were concerned with encryption breaking. Why they can all just head over to Lolscats and have the ultimate of security. /s

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:47pm

    Im sorry, is this secret supose to, convince us of their seriousness of accountability, or not,.......you know, i cant quite decide, sarcasm,...i can totally decide

    Right now, i bet, the pro nsa twats, all their concerned about is, that this information was released from the vaults of "government national security", and not on the context of what was released

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 2:52pm

    That lolcat image was probably taken from here:
    http://cheezburger.com/2735157760
    I'm pretty sure that doing so violated that site's TOS.

    Time to sue the NSA for violating the CFAA!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    akp (profile), Jan 27th, 2014 @ 3:14pm

    I'm going to apply for a job at the NSA.

    I'd like to be paid for playing WoW, Angry Birds, watching YouTube, and reading blogs all day.

    So, basically, the same thing I do now, except as a Highly Paid Professional.

    Sign me up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 5:04pm

    Tell those idiots to back to 2006 please.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    diane, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 5:44pm

    Well, and erkkkk, huge sooprize! about the author of this techdirt [!] [™] post, no small wonder the distancing attempted between the NSA and its corporate bedmates:

    Mike Masnick
    Editor, Techdirt Blog; Founder & CEO of Floor64 [1]

    Mike Masnick
    Editor, Techdirt Blog; Founder & CEO of Floor64 [1]

    Mike is the founder and CEO of Floor64, building up the core idea into reality and recruiting the management team. In addition to providing the strategic direction for the company, Mike oversees all editorial aspects of the Floor64's public and customer sites. Mike's insight into the realms of business, technology economics and public policy are the basis for his frequent posts to the award-winning Techdirt blog. The widely followed, often quoted blog was launched in 1997. Prior to founding Floor64, Mike worked in business development and marketing at Release Software, an e-commerce startup, and in marketing at Intel. Mike has a bachelor's degree in Industrial and Labor Relations and an MBA -- both from Cornell University.


    [1] Floor 64, an Insight Company:

    Over the past decade, Floor64 has developed a series of insight platforms that inspire, inform and help companies innovate. In the process, we’ve gathered a world-class team of analysts and technologists and have worked with companies spanning Fortune 500 leaders to newly formed startups from a wide variety of industries.

    Currently we maintain and manage two insight platforms - the award-winning technology and business analysis blog, Techdirt, and the exciting new marketplace for connecting companies with a diverse community of expertise, the Insight Community [2]


    [2] [Thee[!]] Insight Community:

    The Insight Community is a powerful new marketplace, developed by Floor64 as the fastest, most cost effective way to use conversational marketing to supercharge your corporate advertising, blogging, strategy and intelligence efforts


    (Bolding mine. ...Rod Serling stirs at the stunning greed, manipulation, and hypocrisy which succeeded his Twilight Zone series. Of course, the most effective way to refute commentary such as the above, has been to flaunt the comment (though not comment on it) as the default response, as if it were not true.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    @, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 8:42pm

    Re: simpler

    in teh g00glolz mega corp world, teh ketteh on the left dont knowz what all the puppiez right pawz be doin.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    @b, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 8:47pm

    Re: timing

    Except yesterday's useless scraping-it-all, becomes tomorrow's useful data-to-mine.

    Like: why keep a local copy of anything you found online.

    It's a diy waybackmachine (for free) for those with/without a warrant to go fishing ...tyvm US citizen, I see ur tax dollar$ are hard at work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    okay okay, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 8:48pm

    Re: Re: simpler

    pawzable denial.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 8:57pm

    Re: paranoid much

    Why u talk in the future tense.

    If it's currently a possibility, why not insist it's contemporaneously probable.

    The only thing "new" about these valuable secrets is that they are leaked to you and me. If there's a secret conspiracy then the conspirators "know & use" the secret NSA rules & even more deeply buried harvested-data at *any* point in time you care to imagine. Makes for a good story. Now how can we decide which day was the 1st example of your "population manipulation by telco-spying" thesis? Where must we look to find the 1st smoking gun? And who you gonna call, ghostbusters??

    Stay tuned here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Mrs. Inn Aggregate, Jan 27th, 2014 @ 9:21pm

    Re: dragnet 101

    But you know what get when you "aggregate" both data sets... ?

    That is,

    Free-public-website-usage-showing-unencrypted-users-assuming-privacy-and-clicking-like-on-a-lolca t

    +++PLUS+++

    Warrant-lawfully-obtained-for-a-targetted-search-of-US-governmental-spy-catelogues-full-o f-decrypted-secrets-through-crippled-RSA-cryptograpy-hopefully-used-by-dangerous-violent-wellfunded- young-men-also-using-gmail-to-plan-an-imminent-and-terrifying-crime-on-noncombattants

    ===EQUALS===

    a whole bunch of raw data 0s and 1s with 0% predictive power as information to save any of us surveiled-but-not-targetted telco user's precious post-2001 living-a-life-in-fear life.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Jan 28th, 2014 @ 5:51am

    Omg so they know I regularly like porn stuff ;(

    Still, add that to the myriad of data they already grab and you can pretty much have everything a person does online. How long till they want the same capabilities for the offline world?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    I Forgot, Jan 28th, 2014 @ 11:02am

    Oh yeah, I'm sooo surprised.

    It’s extremely surprising,” said the source, “that while they were pushing for the data via the law, they might have simultaneously been using their capability to grab it anyway.

    Does anyone else out there think that it is even the slightest bit surprising that they may have been grabbing the data any way they could get it? Come now, this has been going on for what, say, a century maybe? Not until someone actually calls them up on it would they likely even be concerned, most likely..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Dave, Jan 28th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: "Anyone else notice OOTB is missing out today on really good material?"

    Oh, you're not missed, my old son - far from it. Don't you kid your paranoid and egotistic self. As far as I'm concerned, you can stay AWOL for ever and a day. If you don't know (and nothing would surprise me, judging by the pig-ignorance shown in your posts) what AWOL means, it can be looked up quite easily, courtesy of your old buddies at Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    BeeAitch (profile), Jan 28th, 2014 @ 5:24pm

    According to the report, GCHQ insists that when it's scooping up this kind of data, it's just using it in the aggregate to look up interesting data, connections and trends,...


    ...and as soon as an individual matches these 'interesting data, connections and trends' they...

    ...rather than spying on anyone individually, but of course, once they have that data, if someone becomes "of interest", it's not difficult to go back and dig through it.


    ..dig up the 'pertinent' records and...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    BeeAitch (profile), Jan 28th, 2014 @ 5:27pm

    Re:

    YOUSONOFABITCH.YOU INVOKED IT!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 30th, 2014 @ 12:50pm

    hahah

    New splunk tagline:

    Splunk> Even gub'mint ninjas use it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2014 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    Are... are you trying to link Masnick with the NSA? I'm afraid you'll need to be much more succinct in your accusation and how what you've posted provides proof of it. Simply being a corporation does not automatically prove any link.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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