What is XKeyscore, and can it 'eavesdrop on everyone, everywhere'? (+video)
But the new Guardian leak appears to indicate something at least close to such capability. The program, called XKeyscore, is the “widest-reaching” Internet surveillance system, according to one of several analyst “training” documents, which included a 32-slide presentation leaked to The Guardian. An analyst has to enter only an individual e-mail address – along with a “justification” inserted into another field on the screen – to get a trove of personal e-mail sorted by time period, say analysts who reviewed the slides for the Monitor.
The program can also apparently determine which computers visited a website and when, as well as searching chats, usernames, buddy lists, and cookies. One slide in an XKeyscore document features corporate logos of a number of familiar online social media companies, saying the program lets analysts see “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”
Another slide illustrates how an analyst can use the program to search “within bodies of e-mail, WebPages and documents.” Analysts using XKeyscore can also use a NSA tool called DNI Presenter "to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages,” according to the Guardian article.
“What stands out about XKeyscore is the ease with which an NSA analyst can dip into people's lives, their most private thoughts,” says James Bamford, an NSA critic who has written several books detailing the agency’s inner workings.
In addition, the amount of information that XKeyscore searches and stores is massive. During a 30-day period in 2012, it collected and stored about 41 billion total records, one slide document asserts. That is a testament to the NSA’s growing capability to collect data, leading to the need for a huge new data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, which should begin operations this fall.