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Nine Genuine Edward Snowden Revelations - And One April Fool

Edward Snowden's documents have revealed the chilling scale of internet surveillance. The plan, in the words of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the US National Security Agency (NSA), is to 'Master the Internet'. All of these are genuine disclosures, apart from one April Fool. Can you guess which one it is? Big Brother Watch is part of the Dont Spy on Us coalition, which is campaigning to reform the UK's surveillance laws.

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1. Get naked, it’s GCHQ!

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GCHQ documents revealed that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo! webcam chats, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, this involved capturing snaps from 1.8m Yahoo! users. And it turns out a “surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person”. We’re just worried that an intelligence agency full of highly intelligent people was surprised people get naked on the internet.

2. Very Angry Birds

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Powerpoint slides published by ProPublica, the Guardian and the New York Times revealed that “leaky” smartphone apps, including the insanely popular Angry Birds, were targeted by GCHQ and the NSA. By hijacking data going online advertising networks the agencies could gather data including a smartphone owner’s age, sex, location and even if they were currently listening to music or making a call.

3. I’d do anything for LOVEINT

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Snowden’s documents revealed the name given to material gathered by NSA staff snooping on their girlfriends, exes and unknown love interests. Love Intelligence – ‘LOVEINT’ for short – was among news that NSA staff had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions in a one-year period.

4. You have a new endorsement

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“One of your contacts has endorsed you for international terrorism. Please click here to accept this endorsement.”

If this seems normal to you, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that an innocent LinkedIn message was just a colleague looking to help you score a promotion. Not for employees of Belgian ISP Belgacom, who were reportedly targeted with fake LinkedIn requests as part of an operation to hack in to the company’s systems. Apparently nobody is falling for winning the Nigerian lottery anymore.

5. Second Life Spooks

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“Seriously boss, I need to play Second Life today, it’s essential for national security.”

Now this is what we call smart. Turns out some GCHQ and NSA staffers managed to convince their managers that by playing online games at work they could seek out terrorist chat and recruit informants. Not content with exposing unprecedented global surveillance, Snowden also managed to answer the longstanding question of who the f**k was still playing Second Life.

6. Fox ‘likes’ Squeaky Dolphin.

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Former Tory leadership hopeful Dr Liam Fox was the subject of one GCHQ operation to track people on Facebook. Dr Fox was named as the subject of a monitoring exercise, with a graph revealing how many people on Facebook "liked" links related to former Defence Secretary.

We have absolutely no idea why this project was codenamed Squeaky Dolphin.

7. Whatever floats your goat

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Snowden’s documents showed that the NSA uses commercial partnerships to weaken the security of various products. In anticipation of the popularity of the then yet-to-be launched Goat Simulator, one slide details how NSA staff were tasked to try and access pre-release versions of the game “to ensure we don’t miss a beat when people get their Goat on.”

8. Unlike - the fake Facebook server

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Not content with tapping the trans-atlantic fibre optic cables that are the backbone of the internet, the NSA – with help from GCHQ – ran a programme called TURBINE which, among other things, used fake Facebook servers to infect systems. The tactics are the same of those who use a large number of infected machines to attack a website and try to force it offline in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. As critics have pointed out, if you attempted to put viruses on millions of people’s PCs, you could expect to spend a very long time not being sent books in prison.

9. Nothing to hide (just your browsing history)

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Yes, it’s another revelation about porn. Snowden revealed how the NSA monitored the browsing habits of certain individuals in order to discredit them publicly. The document named six Muslims whom it describes as "prominent, globally resonating foreign radicalisers" about whom surveillance efforts had revealed potential "vulnerabilities that can be exploited" including "online promiscuity". They also looked for people using donations to pay personal expenses, charging exorbitant speaking fees and using questionable sources and contradictory language in public messages. Clearly behaviour you’d never see from former British Prime Ministers.

10. Your social media photos are at risk if you fail to behave

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According to one GCHQ slide published, the agency’s JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group) has developed ways to discredit targets online. Options include changing photos on social network sites and texting your friends and neighbours. While the world’s most robust tin hat won’t keep you safe from this sort of activity, we would recommend not using ‘password’ as your password is a pretty good start. And avoid honey.

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