British government reportedly tracking YouTube and Facebook data without permission

While the NSA has been busy scouring the Angry Birds leaderboards, newly leaked documents report that its British counterpart -- the GCHQ -- has been monitoring the flow of social media in real-time. The General Communications Headquarters can apparently keep track of YouTube traffic, which links are liked on Facebook and even which Blogger or Blogspot pages are visited. This all comes via documents taken by Edward Snowden that were obtained by NBC News. NBC's sources also say that the British spies have been able to physically tap the lines carrying global web traffic to extract key data about specific users as well. This initiative, called Squeaky Dolphin, intends to put broad data trends into context with world events and give the intelligence community a heads up for future anti-government happenings -- not for spying on a person-by-person level. What's more, the GCHQ reportedly shares this information with the US.

The GCHQ has issued a statement claiming that all of its work is carried out within the limits of the law, while the NSA says that it's only interested in the communication activities of valid foreign intelligence targets. For their part, Google and Facebook say that the spying on unencrypted information was done with out their respective knowledge, and neither company had given the UK government permission to access the data -- something we've heard before.