Unfortunately, it seems that any interest in online privacy is enough to get you noticed by the NSA.
According to an investigation performed by German broadcaster ARD (German language), which claims to have obtained source code from the NSA’s XKeyscore (collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’) program, the NSA and GHCQ target not only users of Tor (which we already knew they did), but anyone who has even visited the Tor or Tails websites, or performed an online search for them.
Bizarrely (and very scarily), anyone interested in the Tails Amnesiac Operating System is considered an ‘extremist’, and perhaps equally worryingly, visitors to the Linux Journal (‘the Original Magazine of the Linux Community’) website are also considered suspicious!
The researchers, who include well known security commentator Jacob Appelbaum, obtained this information after analysing top-secret Xkeyscore source code leaked from an undisclosed source (leading Bruce Schneier to speculate that a second wistleblower exists within the NSA),
‘I also don’t believe the TAO catalog came from the Snowden documents. I think there’s a second leaker out there.’
The code also reveals details about which Tor exit nodes are targeted for surveillance, including nodes in Germany, which is likely to increase the already fierce anti-NSA sentiment there.
The NSA has expressed frustration at its inability to crack Tor in previous Edward Snowden documents (‘We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time’), and it seems that the Xkeyscore program was designed to go some way towards overcoming this obstacle.
What is clear is that anyone who cares about online privacy is a target for NSA and GHCQ surveillance, and is (terrifyingly) considered ‘extremist’ for wanting to preserve their most basic democratic freedoms…