THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY (NSA) has been snooping on web users' email, browsing history, Facebook Chat conversations and more through a programme called Xkeyscore, the Guardian has revealed.
The Guardian published some new documents provided by NSA PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden on Wednesday, which reveal that the NSA's snooping is worse than was first thought.
Through a programme called Xkeyscore the NSA - along with outside analysts such as Snowden - can access web users' emails, Facebook chats, web browsing histories and, well, "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", according to the document.
This reportedly can be accessed by NSA analysts without prior authorisation, the Guardian reported, although a FISA warrant theoretically is required if the person in question is a US citizen.
The Xkeyscore programme's vast database also allows its users to find people by email address, name, phone number, browser, language used, IP address, or specific keywords. The programme is hailed by the NSA as its "widest reaching system", and the Guardian reported that in 2012, 41 billion individual records were stored in Xkeyscore over one 30-day period.
Of course the NSA denies that it's doing anything wrong. In a statement sent to the Guardian it said, "NSA's activities are focused and specifically deployed against - and only against - legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.
"Xkeyscore is used as a part of NSA's lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.
"Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to Xkeyscore, as well as all of NSA's analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks ... In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring."
"Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.
"These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully - to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad." µ