NSA tapped into data from Google, Yahoo

NSA fed internal information from British counterpart.

As the documents on former contractor Edward Snowden continue to be released, it has been shown that the National Security Agency (NSA) has tapped into the communications of e-mail giants Google and Yahoo. The two major companies were used to move huge amounts of e-mail and other user information among overseas data centres, but it is unclear at this time how exactly they used this data. According to the documents, the NSA collected 181 million data records, though it is unknown if any of it is from United States citizens.

The NSA was fed internal information from Google and Yahoo’s private networks by British counterpart GCHQ, which intercepts communications traveling between company centres in Britain.

An NSA spokesperson said in a statement that allegations that the agency relies on a presidential order on foreign intelligence gathering to skirt domestic restrictions imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other laws “is not true.”

“The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true,” the statement claimed. “NSA is a foreign intelligence agency. And we’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”

However, the NSA already has access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved program known as PRISM. How this system works is that it first accesses the Internet company data (from Google and Yahoo). It will then tap into the fibre-optic cables, where it can eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails, and targeted spying can occur. Under PRISM, the NSA has gathered huge volumes of online communication records by legally compelling American technology companies, including Yahoo and Google, to turn over any data matching court-approved search terms. It seems that the NSA has used this opportunity to search even further, and gain access to personal information on e-mail accounts on Google and Yahoo.

Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said that Google did not provide any government with access to its systems.

“We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,” he said.

The head of United States intelligence has defended the monitoring of foreign leaders as a key goal of operations, but the United States is facing growing anger over reports it spied on its allies abroad. It has also been reported that the NSA monitored French diplomats in Washington and at the UN, and that it conducted surveillance on millions of French and Spanish telephone calls, among other operations against the United States’ allies.

If the large-scale collection of Internet content was performed on United States citizens, it would be considered illegal, but since it takes place overseas, the NSA is allowed. This is a continual battle, as documents continue to be released from the summer.

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