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US, foreign agencies using NSA's metadata search engine

According to reports, a "Google-like" search engine has been built by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The search engine is used by various US government agencies and intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes countries to sift through phone call, email, and Internet chat metadata. The intelligence agencies are also able to access cellphone locations collected and stored in a number of different databases.

The Intercept reported that these databases don't include the NSA one that contains information on millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but these data contain some information about the communications of some people living in the US.

The report added that the majority of the metadata collected in those databases are related to people living outside the US.

The search engine named ICREACH, can provide access to over 850 billion records and, as of 2010, could be used by over 1,000 analysts at 23 US government agencies, including the FBI, DEA, and the CIA.

The ICREACH pilot program was introduced in late 2007 and it was launched with an aim to improve some earlier programs such as project CRISSCROSS and the PROTON system that allowed US law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access each other's records, including data such as passport and flight records, phone records, location data, etc.

"The NSA planned to use the new system to perform more advanced kinds of surveillance "such as pattern of life analysis," which involves monitoring who individuals communicate with and the places they visit over a period of several months, in order to observe their habits and predict future behavior," noted Ryan Gallagher.