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January 28, 2014

NSA and British Spy Agency Using Gaming, Social Apps to Collect User Data

National Security Agency photo

Next time you use apps like Angry Birds, Google Maps, Facebook or Twitter, keep in mind, Big Brother may be watching.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s spy agency GCHQ are using what are known as “leaky apps” to grab data — such as age, gender and location — as part of their worldwide surveillance programs, according to documents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden supplied to The New York Times, non-profit newsroom ProPublica, also located in New York, and British publication The Guardian.

“The mobile surge” has been a virtual treasure trove of personal data for the two agencies which, together, implemented the app initiative in 2007, according to the reports.

The NSA’s budget, coincidentally, more than tripled, from $204 million to $767 million, the same year the app surveillance program was implemented.

One NSA analyst, in a slide procured by The Times, described both iPhones and Android phones as “golden nuggets” for obtaining intelligence.

The documents do not reveal how many Americans or other nationalities are affected or how often collection occurs.

Although the documents were not specific in exactly how much data is retrieved from apps, they did indicate the NSA and GCHQ “routinely” nabbed data from “leaky” apps, many of which were introduced early in this mobile era.

The documents also indicated that many newer apps, such as Angry Birds, have similar data mining capabilities, but did not say if the spy agencies have actually used them.

According to The Times, a classified 2012 British intelligence document indicated spies can “scrub” Smartphone apps for details such as a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.

The NSA released the statement below to The Times:

“NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission. Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in NSA’s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process.”

The agency said there are similar protections for “innocent foreign citizens.”

GCHQ would not comment on a specific program. It would only say all its activities observed British law.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.