back to article NSA's Project Marina stores EVERYONE'S metadata for A YEAR

New details from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have shown the existence of Project Marina, a metadata collection system that collects details on the activity of almost all internet users, regardless of whether they are legitimate subjects for enquiry or not. The US government has always insisted that – as far as possible – …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This new?

    I can possibly be spied on by a government, is this new again?

    All the leaks in the world are not going to stop this. Everyone keeps going on and on about how awful this is and how voting or some diplomatic procedure is going to change this, all the while I'm sitting here the whole time thinking only bullets will stop this. Sadly, I have yet to be proven wrong.

    1. asdf

      Re: This new?

      You do know the military has cruise missiles right? Bullets aren't that useful once they have your GPS coords.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This new?

        Right, so why bother. Thank you for the reminder of our position.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: This new?

      Nope, a bit old in fact.

      Here's a little history for those of us repeating it: "They Thought They Were Free"

    3. joed

      Re: This new?

      possibility vs certainty,

      up until some point majority (at least me) discarded permanent invigilation (perhaps some will find this quote familiar;) as technically impossible

    4. Otto is a bear.

      Re: This new?

      I suspect that bullets are more likely to make things worse, have an internal revolution and the state will spy more on the people to root out dissenters, real or imagined. When the revolution succeeds the new government does the same to root out the old regime, and once complete, well we can't allow recidivism can we, we need to watch the people.

      Get over it, just because they have the data doesn't mean they have the capability to use it to spy on everybody, they really don't. It takes far more manpower than any western democracy is prepared to afford.

      Oh yes, and note that the NSA buy data from commercial providers, that's your loyalty cards and credit histories which can be bought by just about anyone the vendors want to sell it too.

  2. Denarius

    A downside

    to bigger faster hard drives and networks. Still, the tweenies and older like to put up debateable selfies, so this wont stop. never stand between a spook and info. Kind of an obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder, isn't it?

    One wonders if the Amish have a valid point.

    1. Schultz

      "This will never stop"

      It's the scale of the American efforts that is so scary. We may expect to be spied upon by the secret service of multiple countries, but the US does it with a huge amount of resources and personnel -- so by the laws of mission creep, they are bound to develop ever more intrusive schemes to spy on everybody and their mom.

      And they will find ever increasing missions to justify the collection of all that data. (Just imagine the alternative -- the responsible person explaining how he spent all that money just to find that there actually was no threat or benefit from it.) They must catch (real or imagined) terrorists, find plots and criminals, ... to deliver value for their money and their salary. If they destroy a few lives or some minor country, well, what's that as compared to a few billion $ and thousands of livelihoods within the organization.

      Using secret information for secret purposes is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Democracy requires that everybody has the same information and can participate in government. If you compartmentalize information, then there is a strong motivation for those inside -- those that know more -- to take over (for the good of everyone, of course). Let's hope that the scale of secret activities in the US will be scaled down soon, so it may never stop but may remain a small fringe activity at the edge of democratic society.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "This will never stop"

        "Democracy requires that everybody has the same information and can participate in government."

        And it requires a spectrum of opinion amongst those likely to get elected. But from a distance there's precious little to tell between the two major power blocs that seem to alternate in power in most Western "democracies", and neither of those parties has any intention of offering a commitment to stop this mass surveillance. Sadly, there's also plenty of evidence that if they did make such a promise, they'd ignore it as soon as they were in power.

        There looks to be no prospect that mass surveillance will be scaled down any time soon, and therefore you can be sure that it is only a matter of time before the politicians start using it to smear opponents, and crack down on those who speak against the official line. That may sound fanciful but twelve months ago we didn't know how the government were scraping and storing every single thing they could. It clearly isn't about fighting terrorism, so everybody should be asking themselves why government is doing this. Unfortunately there's no nice explanations, and anybody who votes for a mainstream party in the US, UK, Australia is actually supporting this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "This will never stop"

          The key to understanding western democracy is that "The Ruling Party" always get elected (and the organization that what we call "The Government is just it's current representative!).

          1. Anonymous Blowhard

            Re: "This will never stop"

            The problem for the politicians is that now the TLAs are the ones in charge; anyone who even thinks about changing this is going to be targetted by the TLAs with smear campaigns, assistance to political opponants, tragic "accidents" etc.

            I think that democracy has come to an end until something happens to change the current situation (e.g. destruction of current civilisation, takover by AI computers, alien invasion etc.)

            Sounds mental, but so does hoovering up everyone's meta-data "just in case"...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "This will never stop"

        "It's the scale of the American efforts that is so scary. "

        Aaaaand...what makes you think that it is only the Americans expending this level of effort?

        If you think that the United Kingdom, the Russians, the Chinese and several others are not working for, or already have, similar levels of oversight technologies...then the Flying Spaghetti Monster will pay you a personal visit and buy you that private planet you've always wanted.

        1. Schultz

          @AC 14.52 GMT

          "Aaaaand...what makes you think that it is only the Americans expending this level of effort?"

          Follow the money: no other western democracy spends anywhere as much money on homeland security (what a nice term).

          Look at the system: A significant fraction of the working population in the US has a security clearance. Looks like you need to become part of the secret society if you want a government job (and if they want you) -- and once you have it you are bound to secrecy.

  3. Aslan

    Thanks to the Register for reporting on this despite not being the primary source, everyone needs to know this. Apparently the NSA doesn't know what information Snowden took as they're still lying rather than having a honest talk about their capabilities and why they collect the data. The NSA caught in another lie how amusing. The people of the United States need to bring their intelligence agencies to heel.

    I've been reading the UK edition of El Reg since 1998 or 1999.

  4. bigtimehustler

    You should assume these days the various agencies can access everything you do, what you choose to do about that situation is up to you. But I would personally fight against any government that thinks this is proportional to the problem they are trying to solve, its frankly crazy and only for their benefit.

  5. Tom 35

    "aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile US citizens. It's just not the case."

    Our secret pet court said it was all OK.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Our secret pet court said it was all OK.

      After we showed the judge the data we'd collected on him... and promised to keep quiet.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    How stupid does the NSA think we are?

    How stupid does the NSA think we are? They keep lying, they actually are naive enough to think the media will lie and just parrot what they say, whether than looking at the documents that have been presented to them telling what really is happening. The NSA has been performing illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping programs for over 10 years, and even when directly questioned about it a) Lied and said it was legal. b) When confronted with the FISA court report where *EVEN FISA* said it was illegal, they said "yes it is" and lied. c) When then told "this decision clearly says it's illegal", claimed they stopped. d) Profit? Then e) When confronted with info saying THEY DID NOT STOP, they then went back to step a, lie and claim it is all legal.

    Just how stupid do they think the public is? I just hope our effective one-party system doesn't get distracted from putting the NSA on a tight leash and dismantling the unconstitutional programs.

    1. Denarius

      Re: How stupid does the NSA think we are?

      hey, it works for elections of pollies few like, or worse, electing pollies that are popular. And incompetent at governing for the people who elected them. just good at governing for the people who gave them electioneering money. Got to the stage where if candidate is well known for no obvious reason, they are suspect. {S}

    2. fajensen

      Re: How stupid does the NSA think we are?

      Pretty stupid. Too stupid and weak and insignificant to matter. In fact, we are like e-coli to them, some potential irritant that one runs statistics on the management of. Maybe they will add a little more fluoride to the drinking water in the future, as a precaution.

      Representatives for the NSA straight up lied to congress too and got clean away with it, so why should they care what "the public" thinks?

    3. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: How stupid does the NSA think we are?

      "they actually are naive enough to think the media will lie and just parrot what they say"

      Yes, they do. The US government blackmailed all the media outlets they could during the various recent wars they were in. If you didn't toe the government line, your agency got frozen-out, no special treats for you media corp like having reporters in the units going into battle.

      Do yourselves a favour and watch John PIlger's documentaries.

    4. Bernard M. Orwell

      Re: How stupid does the NSA think we are?

      Same country that says waterboarding is legal and not torture too.

      Legal, but not Just or Right.

  7. asdf

    why the NSA does what it does

    The NSA really exists for one reason. To protect the US government from any threats. It was supposed to be foreign threats but almost always a government's biggest threat is internal. The NSA's problem is they didn't get the memo that the terrorism big bad boogie man fear was fading in the public and like any good bureaucracy they became a runaway train.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why the NSA does what it does

      They did get the memo. If a threat does not exist it has to be invented. Otherwise you lose your job and state pension.

  8. Sebastian A
    Big Brother

    Shock horror

    "Shady government agency answerable to nobody steps over bounds that it itself is supposed to enforce.". I've run out of surprised faces for this kind of stuff. It's just so predictable that I'm amazed anybody in the US government high up enough to know about it ever thought the NSA would control itself. I can only assume that everyone knew damn well that the NSA would run amok with power and they were merely hoping that the good it does exceeds the evil. How's that working out?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So What's Changed?

    The answer is sadly nothing. The Guardian can keep publishing the revelations, but I suspect most British people haven't heard of them (I know lots of people who don't follow the news), & even those that do have got their own lives to get on with. Meanwhile, as technology becomes more & more embedded in our lives (e.g. Internet of Things) we will give more & more of ourselves away to governments. But to be honest I wouldn't worry too much as goverments tend to be pretty bad at actually control things like illegal immigration & drugs.

  10. Mark Simon

    What about the rest of us?

    It is reassuring that the NSA has promised to protect the privacy of US citizens. As for the other 96% of the world’s population, we’re apparently all legitimate targets for spying.

    Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. You don’t know who’s listening …

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read as...

    All queries of lawfully collected data must be conducted for a foreign intelligence purpose, BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE WHERE WE COLLECT IT UNLAWFULLY" it said. "We know there is a false perception out there that NSA listens to the phone calls and reads the email of everyday Americans BUT WE DON'T BECAUSE WE OUTSOURCE THAT FUNCTION OR PROGRAM COMPUTERS TO DO IT INSTEAD) , aiming to unlawfully monitor or profile US citizens. It's just not the case BECAUSE THE CASE IS MUCH BIGGER THAT SO WHAT I SAID is just not the case. .

  12. DanceMan

    "You can dick with my privacy as much as you want as long as I can keep my guns and have no affordable healthcare."

    The US lacks a real opposition party, so I'm not surprised that this news attracts little to no media attention. They have democracy theatre, not a real democracy.

  13. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    The NSA "protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction". What they weren't in Iraq? Where do the lies to the American people stop?

    Also, as a filthy foreigner...fuck you, NSA. Assholes.

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I look forward to yet more torturous answers...

    ... which reference the NSA's super secret English dictionary which contains their special definitions for any word that isn't a pronoun.

  15. xyz Silver badge

    Just replace the word "NSA" with "Google"

    The only real difference is that one bunch wants to show you ads whilst the other wants to nail your ass

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Just replace the word "NSA" with "Google"

      "The only real difference is that one bunch wants to show you ads whilst the other wants to nail your ass"

      Or stick you in an unofficial prison without trial indefinitely

      That's a pretty big difference.

  16. dssf

    Visual Analytics has been making powerful charts since maybe 1999 or 2003

    It seems SAS, then Raytheon took over VisualAnalytics.

    Personally, as a database and charts fan/fiend, I am not surprised by the capabilities of the NSA or GCHQ, or others. I just hope they are not *excessively* abusing their power. But, the software, and suites like it, make for some kewl/neat modules and tools.

    Check out the Law Enforcement and the Banking/anti-money-laundering solutions/features.

    Demo: images%3Fq%3Dvisual%2Banalytics%2Bsoftware%26client%3Dtablet-android-samsung%26sa%3DX%26hl%3Den%26v%3D133247963%26tbm%3Disch&itbs=1&sa=X&ved=0CEoQrQMwDw

    Really impressive stuff -- as long as it's not being used to frag non-criminals. OTOH, it can help drive down high vehicle insurance rates, spot manufacturing defects, and do lots of other useful things.

  17. Paul_Murphy


    I can't find the 'submit spelling corrections' button but:

    'so that analysts can pore over it' the 'pore' should be 'pour' since a pore is in your skin, not under it where the NSA want to be.

    1. NotMyRealName

      Re: Spelling

      Think you'll find that "pore" is correct.

    2. Chris G

      Re: Spelling

      Pore:Direct one's attention on something, from Wordweb

      Democracy in it's true form has never existed anywhere since the Greeks invented it ((if then), if anyone is so naive as to believe their government is completely open, honest and above board with them then they need a reality transplant. Governments do not keep their populations fully informed.

      There is no way any government with any kind of security service from the police on up, will ever be able to not snoop on it's people.

      Even if a government pulls the plug on things like Prism then the people who work for it and are charged with the safety of the country and it's people will find other ways to do it and maybe not tell the people and their government what they are doing.

      All types of policeman are by nature suspicious and sneaky as those things are job requirements and given that their jobs as mentioned above are dependent on being seen to catch some baddies they must do something to make it appear so.

      Now the tech is out there to be used it will be.

      I wonder how many readers of these comments have IPs in Langley or Washington?

      I Googled NSA Headquarters because I wasn't too sure where they might be, Tried twice, twice it timed out !!

      Guess I'm definitely on a list now!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Spelling

        Pore = correct

        IT'S = IT IS

  18. Paul_Murphy

    US Gov shutdown

    Hmm I wonder if todays US Gov shutdown ( will affect the NSA at all?

    I assume that the NSA will declare themselves indispensible.

  19. petur


    Hello NSA'); DROP TABLE Marina_DB;--?

    I hope it worked :)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I suspect NSA/GCHQ are worried not one iota by the the Snowden leaks. As we have seen demonstrated on numerous occasions in the UK at least, those in power can do pretty much anything they want, with everyone knowing everything about it and knowing that no one will do anything about it.

    Despite :

    - A very questionable democratic system

    - Expense fiddling MPs

    - Out of control banks, bankers and regulators

    - Unacceptable press practices

    - Multinationals paying almost zero tax

    - MPs accepting unacceptable pay rises while all else suffers

    - Ignoring people's privacy on a global level


    And yet we shrug, complain a bit on sites like this - and then very promptly resume our business as usual, hoping someone will do something about it, if we care at all. Me included.

    I'm just not sure what would have to happen to make people do more than just whinge a bit.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Apathy

      Nothing. Nothing at all will cause an uprising, or a revolution, or even a street protest outside the council. Britain has become a nation of people who genuinely believe they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear from government. They really couldn't care more about what happens to their neighbours so long as it doesn't happen to them. We have become East Germany, but without a West Germany to escape to.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Apathy

        "We have become East Germany, but without a West Germany to escape to."
        Does Sealand still have room?

      2. Irony Deficient

        without a West Germany to escape to

        gazthejourno, workers with UK citizenship have freedom of movement to the 27 other EU states (including the Bundesrepublik Deutschland) as well as to Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway in the EFTA. (I think that Switzerland’s current EU immigration quota expires in mid-2014.) Should you genuinely wish to escape Fortress Britannia, you have at minimum 30 destination countries from which to choose. As an example, France is known for street protests and the occasional revolution, if those criteria rate highly for you.

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          Re: without a West Germany to escape to

          Yeah, now try actually *doing* that. Unlike most of our European counterparts, we are still being asked for passports and visas when travelling to other EU countries, despite being a signatory to "freedom of movement".

  21. Jerky Jerk face

    Well im happy with it.

    Think of all the crimes they have stopped. Oh wait they havnt stopped shit have they? I bet they are selling their findings to the highest bidder.

    metadata on that scale you could track ALL KINDS of patterns to SELL MORE SHIT to people.

    dO NOT SAY ITS About anti terror because terrorists dont use the fucking internet to chat on fucking MSN jesus titty fucking christ people.

    1. Otto is a bear.


      Oh! how wrong you are on so many levels.

      No security service can stop everything, but they do stop or disrupt a lot, they also let stuff happen to protect sources until really needed, witness how intelligence gathered from Lorenz and Enigma was ignored in WW2 when it would give away the fact the codes were cracked. They also won't tell you how they do things, because if their targets know that, then they can take counter measures. Ultimately most counter techniques are discovered and avoided, so new ones need to be devised.

      And don't think that criminals and terrorists don't use sophisticated IT, they do, some fraud and drug groups are very good at it. After all they want to sell us more S*£t and can buy data just like anyone else. Although their pet hackers probably steal it.

      But you are right Metadata is used to sell use more.

  22. thegrouch

    Last time I checked, your average US citizen was at far greater risk of being shot by a disgruntled employee/mentally unstable individual/aggrieved former partner/deluded student on a rampage. Although there is often an attempt to put an Islamic spin on these stories, the truth is that there are a lot of nuts with guns over there and rather less boogeymen on a jihad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You forgot about the Police. US Police seems to be capping a lot of bystanders, maybe more than usual recently.

  23. Carl

    Love the use of the word "Lawful"

    Lots of things are or have been considered "lawful" in various places and at various times.

    The systematic discrimination of people based on their gender, or the colour of their skin for example.

    So with all due respect the NSA can stick "lawful" where the sun don't shine.

  24. psychonaut

    Yawn. So they know everything. What can be done about it by you and me? Nothing at all. Absolutely fuck all. Next!

  25. Caesarius

    Data vs Meta Data

    Did anyone else notice that the leak said that meta data was stored, but the NSA denied listening to phone conversations and reading emails, which is data not meta data. I interpret the leak as saying that the NSA stores "who called whom and when" and "who emailed whom and when and possibly the email subject".

    In which case, the NSA are not actually lying. Just to make it clear, I therefore despise them.

    1. Bernard M. Orwell

      Re: Data vs Meta Data

      Alas, if only they WERE sticking to meta-data, but they're not, as seen in this article:

      "The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete 'picture'," it says.

      Audio and Video? well thats clearly content and not meta-data, isn't it? More lies?

      [This was somewhat CopyPasta'd from my comment to the article mentioned]

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness!

    "The US government has always insisted that – as far as possible – data is only collected on either non-US citizens or people deemed worthy of investigation."

    What a relief. Now I know I can stop worrying.

    Oh, wait a minute. WHO decides whether someone is "worthy of investigation"?

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