GCHQ ‘Is Monitoring’ Online Porn Visits

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Intelligence agency reportedly monitoring user visits to smutty websites, in latest surveillance revelation

The UK’s top secret surveillance intelligence agency, GCHQ, is reportedly monitoring the online browsing habits of users.

GCHQ has reportedly been storing the bulk records of people’s visits to websites such as the BBC, Channel 4 News, Reuters, Reddit, as well as social media and smutty websites such as YouPorn.

Bulk Data

This is according to the Intercept, which pointed out that the surveillance comes amid a government push to obtain more powers to monitoring British citizens.

The news website said that documents obtained by it from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have exposed a program called KARMA POLICE to record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

The mass surveillance operation has been in operation after it launched seven years ago. One of the systems apparently “builds profiles showing people’s web browsing histories. Another analyses IM communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions.”

GCHQ at Cheltenham, GloucestershireAnd it seems that GCHQ has separate programs to keep tabs on “suspicious” Google searches and usage of Google Maps.

GCHQ is alleged to have collected vast amounts of metadata, all without a court order or search warrant. By 2010 it was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day. The agency has apparently now increased this capacity to 100 billion a day.

The data is apparently stored for months and retrospectively searched when officials trawl through the information in a search for online behaviour that could be connected to terrorism or other criminal activity.

GCHQ is able to intercept all this web browsing information as it reportedly uses “probes” that tap into transatlantic fibre-optic cables.

The data is sucked into a massive repository named Black Hole, which is at the core of the agency’s online spying operations. This is where the raw information resides until an analysis program is used.

And GCHQ’s KARMA POLICE program also gathers the IP addresses of people, which it then pairs with other data so that it becomes “a rich source of personal information.” GCHQ also apparently taps into website cookies to see what other websites a person has visited.

No Surprise

The latest GCHQ revelations should come up as no surprise to privacy campaigners.

Indeed, a massive hint that GCHQ was monitoring web surfing habits of people was dropped in January this year, when the London Mayor Boris Johnson revealed that British men who join religious extremist groups are loners and are likely to be users of pornography.

Earlier this month GCHQ offered up its advice on how consumers can ensure their passwords are fit for purpose. It said that overly complex passwords can often be more of a hindrance than a help.

In July this year, human rights group Amnesty International called for an independent inquiry into GCHQ, after it emerged that it had been monitoring its communications.

It was back in February when the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that GCHQ had illegally spied on British citizens. It was the first time the IPT had ruled against an intelligence agency in its 15-year history. The IPT is charged with keeping Britain’s intelligence agencies in check.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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