Racy photos intercepted by the NSA were routinely shared among agency employees, former contractor Edward Snowden said in an interview published Friday.
"The majority of the communications in our databases are not the communications of targets, they’re the communications of ordinary people, of your neighbors, of your neighbors' friends, of your relations, of the person who runs the register at the store," he told The Guardian (UK)
Many of the personnel working on the surveillance programs are young men in their late teens and early twenties, who often share nude and sexually explicit photos scooped up by government software, he explained.
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"In the course of [employees'] daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they're extremely attractive. So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: 'Oh, hey, that's great. Send that to Bill down the way.'"
These breaches of protocol rarely, if ever, go reported, said the 31-year-old who leaked classified details of the National Security Agency's wide surveillance of the American public — including the PRISM program — last year.
Snowden acknowledged that many citizens might not care if their nude photos are seen by a few government contractors as they comb through communications channels monitoring for terrorist threats, but said their access was wrong on principle.
"The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communication stream, from the intended recipient, and given to the government without any specific authorization, without any specific need, is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in the government database?"
Snowden also reserved harsh criticism for British surveillance programs, saying its snooping is even more penetrating and widespread because privacy laws are weaker there. He said British intelligence platforms "are used as a testing ground" for the "Five Eyes," an intelligence alliance between Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, according to The New York Times
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