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Karma Police spying on the whole internet: Snowden

Satellite dishes at GCHQ's outpost at Bude, close to where trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables come ashore in Cornwall, UK. (Reuters)

Documents recently leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mapped “every visible user on the internet,” in an operation code-named Karma Police.

According to the Intercept website, GCHQ launched the operation in 2009 without obtaining legal permission or Parliamentary consultation or public scrutiny, RT reported on Saturday.

The operation was designed in 2007-08 to link "every user visible to passive SIGINT with every website they visit, hence providing either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the internet."

The term SIGINT or signals intelligence refers to intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether it be communication between people or from electronic signals not directly used in communication.

In 2012, GCHQ, which provides intelligence by intercepting communications between people or equipment to the British government or armed forces, was collecting around 50 billion online metadata records per day. The information was then stored for later examination by data analysts.

GCHQ has declined from commenting on the matter, but insisted that its activities are carried out under strict monitoring procedures.

“It is long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee,” a GCHQ spokesman was quoted as saying in a MailOnline report.

Even though the reason for the operation title was not referred to in the documents, reports said it was taken after a song by English rock music band Radiohead in 1997.

An outspoken critic of the UK government, Radiohead says “This is what you get, when you mess with us,” in the verse repeated throughout the track.

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