The software powering the US National Security Agency's (NSA) powerful search techniques have been revealed. Called XKeyscore, the software is a basic web form which trawls through hundreds of billions of recorded internet traffic to list relevant results.
Revealed by the Guardian today, screenshots reportedly show an NSA tutorial presentation detailing how to use the software. The article claims that analysts connected to the browser-based system could search through the NSA's records without any review process, meaning data searching was effectively a free-for-all for employees and contractors.
The Guardian says that the purpose of the software was "to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity". Screenshots show specific applications which could be used to monitor Facebook users' messaging history simply "by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen".
The software also claims to be able to rifle through user search history simply by referring to HTTP activity, and makes examples of the BBC website as one potential source of information, as well as Wikipedia, Twitter and Yahoo.
It is claimed that the software searched through 850 billion so-called "call events" such as emails and phone conversations as well as a further 150 billion internet records. The Guardian says one to two billion records were added every day, with all data only stored for around for three to five days. The paper quotes a former NSA mathematician as saying that the NSA had assembled 20 trillion transactions between US citizens.
Finally, it alleges that exchanges between foreign citizens are stored in the same database as those which involve US citizens, meaning records of non-US citizens are just as accessible without a warrant.
In a statement to the Guardian, the NSA said that the use of XKeycore was legal and justified, and insisted that allegations of "widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true".
The former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who initially released the documents relating to PRISM, is still seeking asylum and is currently believed to be in Russia.
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