Privacy     Documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden indicate that U.S. and British spy agencies have cracked encryption codes designed to provide online privacy and security.

The codes are used by hundreds of millions of people to protect their personal data, online transactions and email correspondence.

The files show the U.S. National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ – working closely together – have compromised the guarantees Internet companies make to their customers reassuring them their communications and personal records remain private. The records show the security agencies have collaborated with Internet companies to leave vulnerabilities – known as “backdoors” or “trapdoors” – in commercial encryption software.

The records show the NSA spends some $250 million a year on the program, and note that the British security agency has been working on ways to enter the encrypted traffic streams of such companies as Yahoo, Google, Hotmail and Facebook.

The leaked information is likely to cause fierce backlash among privacy advocates.

U.S. government officials have argued that NSA surveillance efforts are only aimed at stopping terrorism.(Voice of America)

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