The Inquirer-Home

GCHQ is monitoring Facebook Likes and Youtube with Operation Squeaky Dolphin

Another day, another silly name for privacy invasion
Tue Jan 28 2014, 15:56
magnifying glass

EXILED AMERICAN WHISTLEBLOWER Edward Snowden has revealed evidence that shows GCHQ is able to monitor web traffic without the knowledge of either the website or the user.

Operation Squeaky Dolphin is explained in the presentation "Psychology A New Kind of SIGDEV" (Signals Development) obtained by NBC from the Snowden files. It describes an operation to harvest Facebook Likes, Youtube URLs and Blogger visits

Squeaky Dolphin physically taps internet cables and extracts data. According to another Snowden paper, GCHQ demonstrated to NSA colleagues that it was able to manipulate the commercially available Splunk package to analyse data as it travels across the fibre network. It is able to display graphically what videos and Facebook Likes are popular demographically and geographically. The programme might be connected to a UK Parliment report that criticised intelligence agencies for not predicting the Arab Spring of 2011.

Although the SIGDEV presentation emphasised that the programme is interested in trends rather than individuals, it emerged that once collected, the data could be traced back to individuals.

A Google spokeman told NBC, "We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links. We do not provide any government, including the UK government, with access to our systems. These allegations underscore the urgent need for reform of government surveillance practices."

Both GCHQ and the NSA commented in their usual clandestine fashion, falling short of admission or denial, but emphasising that they only had interest in valid targets rather than the general population.

GCHQ said, "All of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,... which ensure[s] that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee. All of our operational processes rigorously support this position."

The NSA statement proclaimed, "Any implication that NSA's foreign intelligence collection is focused on the social media communications of everyday Americans is not true.... We collect only those communications that we are authorized by law to collect for valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes - regardless of the technical means used by the targets.

"Because some data of US persons might at times be incidentally collected in NSA's lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for US persons exist across the entire process concerning the use, handling, retention, and dissemination of data."

So remember, the next time you Like a Youtube video or a friend's post on Facebook, you're being watched. µ


Share this:

blog comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to INQ newsletters

Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ

INQ Poll

Happy new year!

What tech are you most looking forward to in 2015