According to documents shared by the whistleblower Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been running a mass surveillance programme which records the browsing habits of internet users across the globe.
Established in 1919, GCHQ is a security and intelligence organisation “tasked by Government” to protect the nation from any threats.
50 billion online metadata records
The operation, codenamed Karma Police – a song by the band Radiohead – was reportedly put in place without any parliamentary authorisation or public scrutiny.
Documents suggest that the plans for Karma Police were developed between 2007 and 2008, and the system aimed to provide the agency with “either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet”.
It is thought that, as of 2012, the GCHQ was obtaining around 50 billion metadata records relating to online communications and web browsing activity a day, and the agency had plans to boost its capacity to 100 billion records a day.
The data has been stored in a “massive repository” named the Black Hole, which was used to retain over 1.1 trillion “events” between August 2007 and March 2009.
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