Meet XKeyscore: The NSA’s Secret Real-Time Internet Snooping System That May Have Already Met You

New documents published in The Guardian reveal that the NSA can snoop on you in real time–and that the agency is building a giant keyword-based database of everything connected to the Internet, including Word and Excel docs on users’ hard drives.

Sometimes life seems a lot like dystopian science fiction. Case in point: The latest Edward Snowden revelation published by Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian. Leaked documents indicate that the National Security Agency has a secret program called XKeyscore, which “collects nearly everything a user does on the Internet” in near-real time. According to Greenwald’s piece, XKeyscore can be used on anyone–NSA analysts require no authorization to use it on a target–and once put in place, it tracks a user’s emails, social media activity, and browsing history.

Training materials for XKeyscore published in The Guardian give the scoop: Analysts do not require warrants or on-paper authorization from superiors, they only have to fill in a simple on-screen form to set it up for an individual target. Once put into place, it functions as a hybrid analytics platform and massive database that allows NSA analysts to track the contents of targets’ Facebook messages and feeds, their emails, Google searches, and much more.

The slideshow above contains a selection of the… shall we say, more interesting slides from XKeyscore’s training materials. It seems that the NSA has a particular interest in anyone using encryption, in any foreign companies that offer VPN services, and in Iranian Internet users in general.

According to the training materials (some of which were redacted), XKeyscore has helped catch hundreds of suspected terrorists so far. No word on all the English grannies with time on their hands who were just Googling for Pervez Musharraf, though.

Fast Company has been keeping an eye on the Ed Snowden revelations for quite some time and will continue adding information as it’s available.

[Main Image: Wikimedia user Starvinsky]

About the author

Based in sunny Los Angeles, Neal Ungerleider covers science and technology for Fast Company. He also works as a consultant, writes books, and does other things.



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