NSA Servers Collect Personal Data Sent by iPhone Apps

NSA LogoThe U.S. National Security Agency specifically looks for data sent by mobile apps in order to capture personal data on targets, according to a new report from The New York Times and other news agencies.

Intelligence agencies can grab data as it travels across the Internet, looking specifically for data from smartphone apps including Google Maps -- searches within the app allow Governments to locate users to within a few yards -- and even Angry Birds. Much of the information being sent seems to be related to targeted advertising.

The secret report noted that the profiles vary depending on which of the ad companies — which include Burstly and Google’s ad services, two of the largest online advertising businesses — compiles them. Most profiles contain a string of characters that identifies the phone, along with basic data on the user like age, sex and location. One profile notes whether the user is currently listening to music or making a call, and another has an entry for household income.

In addition, apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all support sending some amount of location data and other information, allowing intelligence agencies significant opportunities to capture personal data in real-time on targeted persons without ever having access to phones, something that was part of a different intelligence strategy revealed in previous leaked documents.

NSA Aerial View
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been vocal in his disapproval of some of the NSA's methods, meeting with the President to discuss NSA surveillance and more recently saying the NSA "would have to cart us out in a box" to have access to Apple's servers.

For its part, the NSA says it only analyzes data on foreign intelligence targets and that significant protections exist for data collected on U.S. persons and "innocent foreign citizens". The NSA has said in the past that collection of this sort of smartphone traffic has been useful in cracking cases.

"N.S.A. does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission," the agency said in a written response to questions about the program. "Because some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in N.S.A.'s lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for U.S. persons exist across the entire process." Similar protections, the agency said, are in place for "innocent foreign citizens."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

Xenomorph Avatar
136 months ago
Since everything I do is tracked and monitored, I only use computers and electronic devices to look at the most exotic and weird forms of pornography imaginable.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hansonjohn590 Avatar
136 months ago
Really? Show me a case where an American was targeted.
Uh, the entire meta data collection program? You know, the very first story that Snowden leaked? The one that dominated the news for a good month and is still breaking headlines.

Try informing yourself next time.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hansonjohn590 Avatar
136 months ago
I really don't get why people are making such a deal over this.


*facepalm*

People like you are why your country is implementing filters on your internet.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tknull Avatar
136 months ago
I really don't get why people are making such a deal over this. I know I'm opening myself up to being totally and utterly slammed here, but I really don't think the NSA gives a damn about your Angry Birds high score or what you're sending to your Dropbox.

I would guess that about 99.99% is read by a computer infrastructure of some kind, looking out for keywords. Unless you're hiding something that you should be genuinely worried about being uncovered, why all this worry? A computer doesn't judge you (unless its your credit rating, granted) and it's very unlikely a human will ever read it.

So, unless you're looking up explosives or pornography of a particularly evil nature - why worry about a computer scanning your stuff? You probably give more data inadvertently to advertising companies.

Disclaimer: I'm a UK citizen - GCHQ does the same thing.
So just curious... if the government (yours or any) decided to put a camera in everyone's living rooms.... would you not complain then either? I mean, you aren't "hiding anything" are you?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
griz Avatar
136 months ago
So why is it that it is ok for the government to spy on its citizens but not for its citizens to sky on its government? Exactly who controls who again?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hansonjohn590 Avatar
136 months ago
Why does everyone act so :eek: when these was not some secret that NSA has been spying on us for a very long time.
Because it was always one of those things that people assumed but really never had confirmation of how much of an extent it was.

This is absolute confirmation of everyday examples of their intrusions.

Exactly.

It's sort of their job, and the reason we pay them, to spy on foreign targets.
Have you been living under a rock? They don't stop at 'foreign.'
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)