Use of common Web privacy tools or even mere curiosity about them could get you added to a National Security Agency watch list, according to a new report.
The, first revealed last summer in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, has been found to contain selection rules that potentially add to an NSA watch list anybody who has not only used, but visited online privacy-protection tools such as the Tor Network for anonymous Web browsing and the Linux-based Tails operating system. Snowden’s X-Keyscore files indicated that it allowed NSA employees to obtain a person’s phone number or email address, view the content of email, and observe full Internet activity including browsing history without a warrant.
An analysis of X-Keyscore’s source code (text only) indicates that the program has targeted a German student who runs a Tor node, and can add to the NSA’s surveillance lists anybody who uses popular Internet privacy tools such as Tor. The reports were prepared by reporters for the German public television broadcasters NDR and WDR, and people employed by and volunteering for Tor, who said that “former NSA employees and experts are convinced that the same code or similar code is still in use today.”
Primarily funded by the US government, the Tor network anonymizes Internet traffic by relaying the communication through a series of encrypted, anonymizing hubs called nodes. It’s often used by reporters and activists, and it was estimated in 2012 that 50,000 to 60,000 Iranians use the service daily.