Thanks to more classified documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Guardian is now reporting that a British spy agency has tapped into trans-Atlantic fibre optic cables, allowing them access to everything from email and Facebook messages to internet search histories and phone calls, which they gather indiscriminately. Oh, it's sharing it with the NSA.
The British agency in question, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is the overseas equivalent of our NSA, but because the extent of data they're collecting is so massive, they don't have the "resources" to analyse it all. According to The Guardian:
The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.
But even if they can't analyse the information immediately, the GCHQ has managed to store huge quantities of tapped data for up to 30 days in the project known as Tempora, giving them time to sift through hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians private information. This has been going on for roughly 18 months.
However, "a source with knowledge of intelligence" is claiming that the data was collected under entirely legal terms. Even if that proves to be true, the fact that not only are both the United States and Britain working together to collect data, but they're also doing so arbitrarily in such massive quantity is, to say the least, highly troubling. [The Guardian]