Snowden's Squeaky Dolphin leak: Brits spy on YouTube, Facebook behavior

Summary:What the Brits were trying to do was cull an ocean of data---even relatively meaningless Facebook likes and YouTube shares---to garner some insight.

The latest documents from Edward Snowden highlight how the British government was monitoring YouTube and Facebook behavior in real time without consent.

Snowden's latest document dump was reported by NBC News, which also published a presentation. The documents were initially taken from the National Security Agency. The snooping was detailed in a presentation called “Psychology A New Kind of SIGDEV" (Signals Development)."

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What the Brits were trying to do was cull an ocean of data---even relatively meaningless Facebook likes and YouTube shares---to garner some insight. Earlier on Monday Snowden documents revealed how the British government was able to tap into the cables that carry the globe's Web traffic. The GuardianThe New York Times and ProPublica working together each published claims that smartphone apps "leak" data from iPhone and Android apps, which are then piggybacked by Britain's GCHQ and the U.S. National Security Agency.

Earlier:  Meet the 'Spy Smurfs': Here's how the NSA, GCHQ target iPhones, Android devices

The timing of the latest Snowden dump---a day before President Obama's State of the Union speech---is hardly coincidental.

While the Brit snooping is a new revelation it's hardly surprising after Snowden's NSA data dump last year. It is obviously sketchy that the British government is monitoring YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, but there's the classic big data problem. What exactly were the Brits hoping to find in the sea of cyber junk and online sharing?

Like many enterprises, the British government was using Splunk to mine a sea of data and display the analytics graphically.

In its presentation, the Brits noted that all that data lacked context. So the plan was to use "targeted enrichment" to find influence at scale and ultimately wrongdoers.

squeaky dolphin slide

Topics: Security, Networking


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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