The program is described in documents dating from 2008 as aiming "to correlate every user visible to passive SIGINT [signals intelligence] with every website they visit, hence providing (a) a web browsing profile for every user visible on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet."
NSA codenames seem to be randomly chosen & opaque, while GCHQ's seem more deliberately evocative. You say KARMA POLICE, I say STELLAR WIND.— matt blaze (@mattblaze) September 25, 2015
Another document, dated 2009, discusses the evaluation of "Broadcast/Internet Radio Exploitation and Analysis". The progam was sued to track the top countries with servers streaming Internet radio or "Shoutcast", "Icecast" or "Peercast" services, as well as the countries with the most listeners.
The top country for streaming, over a three month period, according the documents released by The Intercept, was France, followed by Ireland and the Netherlands. The top country for the most listeners was also France, followed by Ireland, the US and the Netherlands.
The documents show that technical analysis included searching for users and service providers with Islamic connections:
"In order to assess the Islamic radicalization risk further, Internet broadcast titles were analyzed for the presence of keywords, Islam and Quran."
The exposure of Karma Police — presumably named after the song by the group Radiohead containing the line "This is what you get when you mess with us" — is a further example of the techniques used by the British intelligence agency GCHQ.
It follows the exposure by former CIA-contractor Edward Snowden — now living in temporary asylum in Moscow — of two other programs run with the US National Security Agency (NSA): PRISM and Tempora.
PRISM was used in the US to gather information from Internet companies, under federal law, and track user Internet browsing habits. Tempora is a similar program used by GCHQ to tap into fiber-optic cables to gather Internet user data.