This time last year, no one knew who Edward Snowden was. But by the end of 2013, his name was on every top 10 list, and the revelations contained with the NSA documents he leaked have inspired yesterday's "The Day We Fight Back" protests.
For a while the information contained with the leaked documents took a backseat to the cultural impulse to dissect Snowden as a celebrity — his Reddit posts about sex, and Cosmo asking "What the hell is Edward Snowden's girlfriend thinking right now?"
Then Sunday talk shows debated whether Snowden was a was fink, traitor, whistleblower, or spy - as the elusive former contractor made an escape to Russia worthy of a spy-thriller chase scene.
But the Snowden documents contained serious information. Since June, we have learned about a variety of NSA programs, including PRISM, a multilayered, multiagency program that mines the data of suspected terrorists, as well as that of anyone even marginally associated with them. And the information that has been released is reportedly just a fraction of what exists.
Still, we have about eight months worth of data dumps, information that has prompted the promise of action from the White House, bills in the Congress, and yesterday's "Day We Fight Back" protest, which is calling on people around the globe to protest NSA surveillance on the Web and in person.
Below, we count down some of the most alarming revelations from Edward Snowden thus far.
10. The NSA intercepts deliveries
According to documents published by German newspaper Der Spiegel, the NSA uses a tactic called "method interdiction," which intercepts packages that are en route to the recipient. Malware or backdoor-enabling hardware is installed in workshops by agents and the item then continues on its way to the customer.
9. The NSA can spy on PCs not connected to the Internet
Der Spiegel also published a document from an NSA division called ANT, which revealed technology the NSA uses to carry out operations, including a radio-frequency device that can monitor and even change data on computers that are not online.
8. Phone companies must turn over bulk phone data
In April, Verizon and other phone companies in America were ordered to hand over telephony metadata from calls made from the United States to other countries over the course of three months.
The metadata included originating and terminating phone numbers, mobile subscriber identity numbers, calling card numbers, and the time and duration of calls. The secretive nature of the FISA court that made the request for data, however, meant that Verizon and other companies could not discuss the data requests.
7. The NSA hacked Yahoo and Google data centers
In October, The Washington Post accused the NSA of secretly monitoring transmissions between the data centres of Internet giants Yahoo and Google. Both companies denied giving the NSA permission to intercept such traffic. Google's Eric Schmidt called the move "outrageous," if true, while Yahoo moved to encrypt its data after the revelation.
6. The NSA collects email and IM contact lists
Hundreds of thousands of contact lists are collected by the NSA in a single day, The Washington Post also revealed. While the targets are outside of the United States, the scope of the collection means that info from US citizens is inevitably included.
5. RSA created a backdoor into its encryption software at the NSA's request
In December, Reuters reported that the NSA paid RSA $10 million (£6.1 million) to create a "back door" in its encryption products, which gave the NSA access to data protected by RSA products like Bsafe. RSA denied the report, but the revelation prompted speakers to bow out of this month's RSA Conference.
4. The NSA eavesdrops on the phone calls of world leaders
The US government's friends and family calling plan reportedly extends to the content of calls, including tapping into German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone calls from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Berlin. The news prompted German officials to consider creating their own Internet.
3. The NSA knows how many pigs you've killed in Angry Birds
The Flappy Bird flap may be bigger, but last month, The New York Times reported that the NSA and British intelligence teamed up to collect and store user data generated by "dozens of smartphone apps," including popular games like Angry Birds. Rovio denied it, but anti-surveillance activists still defaced the developer's website.
2. The NSA engages in industrial espionage
The US government has framed the NSA's activities as necessary to keeping citizens safe, but Snowden said on German television, "If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to US national interests — even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security — then they'll take that information nevertheless."
1. Tech companies cooperated with the NSA and then were asked not to talk about it
Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple were all named in the PRISM documents and struggled with how to talk to the public about it because of gag orders.
If you want a more in-depth breakdown, check out our three-part PRISM Timeline - a day-by-day breakdown of the worst of the NSA's excesses.