The NSA and GCHQ have been accessing and collecting data flowing between the data centres used by Google and Yahoo, according to the latest documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Washington Post reported that it had seen material which showed that the spy agencies had direct access to traffic flowing between the firm’s data centres, enabling it to view content stored on services such as Gmail and Drive.
The NSA and GCHQ did this by tapping the telecoms links between the locations, under a project called MUSCULAR, which used interception points in the network to copy the entire data flows between the data centers to its own storage facilities, The Washington Post reported.
If true the revelations mark yet another disturbing level of surveillance by the spy agencies as it shows the direct traffic for major US tech giants were considered fair game. Google engineers were said to have "exploded with profanity" when they were made aware of the snooping.
V3 contacted Google and Yahoo for comment on the revelations but had received no reply at the time of publication.
The Washington Post reported that Google said it was "troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers" and it claimed it was unaware of the activity.
“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.
Yahoo also denied knowledge of any spying on its services. “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centres, and we have not given access to our data centres to the NSA or to any other government agency,” The Washington Post reported.
The revelations follow a raft of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden that showed the US and UK have been spying on citizens, firms and world leaders for a number of years.
Originally it was revealed that data from phone calls and public web traffic was being monitored under the PRISM programme. Operation Tempora also came to light, showing that the UK was tapping into telecoms networks to gather data that was being sent around the globe.
More recently it has been revealed that phones used by world leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel have been tapped for data on communications, although the US claims no content was ever recorded.
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