This is what you’ll get when you mess with us.
KARMA POLICE was “just one part of a giant global internet spying apparatus” built by the UK government’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ. The operation was launched in 2009, without Parliamentary consultation or public scrutiny, to record the browsing habits of “every visible user on the internet”.
The revelations are contained in documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden by The Intercept, the website founded by journalist Glen Greenwald.
The documents show how GCHQ could build profiles showing people’s web browsing histories as well as analysing instant messenger communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions. Separate programs were built to keep tabs on “suspicious” Google searches and use of Google Maps.
The origin of the surveillance system’s name is not discussed in the documents, but it seems impossible that the British spies were unaware of Radiohead’s ode to social alienation and state surveillance, which opens with the line: “Karma police, arrest this man”.
Ryan Gallagher’s report for The Intercept details the terrifying scope of the KARMA POLICE operation.