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The NSA has been quietly spying on the world’s internet traffic, as well as collecting the metadata of everyone’s online activities.
The US National Security Archive has published documents showing how the NSA has tracked down more than 20 million internet traffic connections between 2008 and 2013, as the organisation has recently published a report on the NSA’s surveillance programme.
The report also reveals that the NSA had collected data from internet service providers (ISPs) and web browsers, including those used by the likes of Google and Facebook.
“This information includes a list of the ISP and browser IDs of the IP addresses and hostnames associated with a particular user’s web activity,” the report states.
The NSA’s role in the internet is particularly concerning as the UK government is currently reviewing legislation which would make it a crime to “interfere with, disrupt or interfere with the operations of a foreign intelligence organisation”.
The document, titled “Intelligence Identifiers: How NSA Tracks IP Address Changes” also shows how the agency has been able to track the location of “internet devices” which have been connected to a specific domain.
The government is also investigating a number of instances where the NSA was able to locate devices that were connected to “hosts” that had been located in other countries.
It is not clear how the information collected by the NSA and its partners has been used by intelligence agencies.
However, it is likely that the information has been shared with US allies such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC).
The NSA declined to comment on the documents.
A number of tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, have come under fire in recent weeks over their use of encryption, in particular to protect communications between users and to help prevent cyber attacks.
But privacy campaigners argue that encryption is often a smokescreen for surveillance.
Last week, the US National Privacy Forum released a report into the use of internet anonymisation, which has been called “the most invasive form of surveillance”.
It warned that “the ability to anonymise internet traffic and other data to help protect privacy is often compromised”.
“While the government’s use of this technology is not new, we are concerned that the government may be using it to circumvent laws protecting privacy,” the NPI said.
The NPI has warned that the US government “may be attempting to circumvent encryption rules and access internet communications in ways that circumvent the laws protecting the privacy of internet users.”