The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.
The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages – including their contacts – is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
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The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.
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On average, each day the NSA was able to extract:
• More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when)
• Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts
• More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images.
• Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users
The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings”. Other travel information was obtained from itinerary texts sent by travel companies, even including cancellations and delays to travel plans.
Today, the President is scheduled to announce his “reforms” and changes to the NSA operations. The type of collection described in the NSA article is exactly what should be stopped: mass collection, without a warrant, of information from untargeted individuals. A better example of the NSA’s “let’s get it all” and civil liberties be damned approach is hard to imagine.
- NSA Collecting Hundreds Of Millions Of Text Messages Daily, Looking At ‘Untargeted’ Messages & Data (techdirt.com)
- NSA harvests 200M of SMSes every day with untargeted, global “Dishfire” program (boingboing.net)