XKEYSCORE Spy Program Revealed by Snowden Still a Problem

The US Civil Liberties Oversight Board presented to the government the results of an investigation into XKEYSCORE late last year.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) has conducted a classified investigation into the government’s surveillance program XKEYSCORE, but one of the investigators disagrees.

Through the XKEYSCORE program, the US National Security Agency analyzed vast amounts of Internet data and communications. This program was implemented under the heading “top secret”, but it became known to the general public in 2013 thanks to Edward Snowden.

The results of the PCLOB investigation into XKEYSCORE, along with recommendations from individual board members, were presented to the NSA and Congress late last year, Motherboard writes. However, one of the PCLOB members involved in the investigation publicly criticized the nature of the investigation, thereby revealing the fact that it was being conducted.

“I was hoping that the previous majority of the council would conduct a more thorough investigation into this highly classified surveillance program, which is unlikely to be scrutinized by another independent oversight body in the near future,” said PCLOB member Travis LeBlanc, adding that he has “Serious complaints” about the investigation report.

According to the 2008 XKEYSCORE presentation received by The Guardian, the system could provide data collected from all of its servers (at the time, they were located in 150 locations), in response to a single request.

Among other things, LeBlanc said the report did not address any algorithmic biases that XKEYSCORE may have or whether the system has correct compliance procedures. The board of directors did not make enough effort to establish the compliance of the program, the operators of which were not required to receive training in the area of ​​confidentiality and civil liberties.

PCLOB also failed to assess the effectiveness and cost of the program, which LeBlanc notes were one of the main areas of the investigation. Based on the 2008 presentation, at that time XKEYSCORE already had 700 servers worldwide, but this number could easily have been increased simply by adding more servers. If the NSA has continued to use XKEYSCAPE since then, it is impossible to tell how much the system has grown or how many people have been affected by the data collection.

As LeBlanc noted, PCLOB is not taking any steps to declassify the results of its investigation.

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