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The NSA has secretly tapped into the private fiber-optic networks that connect Google’s and Yahoo’s worldwide data centers, allowing the spy agency to suck up “at will” metadata and content belonging to users of the companies’ services, according to The Washington Post.
Under a program called MUSCULAR – a joint project with British NSA counterpart the GCHQ – the NSA takes advantage of overseas taps to intercept data flowing within Google’s and Yahoo’s geographically distributed data “clouds,” where multiple copies of user data are stored unencrypted, the Post reports, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, as well as unnamed “knowledgeable officials.”
Such data might include, for example, information in Gmail accounts or Google Drive documents.
The hundreds of millions of user accounts that are thus accessible to the NSA include many belonging to Americans, but the offshore taps allow the agency to presume the users are foreign and to sidestep the restrictions placed on domestic surveillance by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Post reports.
Through another program, revealed earlier this year and referred to in reports as PRISM, the NSA can – given approval by the FISA court, and under Section 702 of the act – compel tech companies to hand over certain user data. …