The data range from a user's every movement to their sexual orientation, the documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal. The unwieldy amount of data can sometimes prove too much for the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, to analyze properly.
‘Angry Birds’ is one of several apps that the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, use to collect users’ information.
These “Angry Birds” are telling more about you than you may know.
The National Security Agency uses the popular smartphone app — with an estimated 1.7 billion downloads worldwide — to take information ranging from a user’s age and location to their sexual orientation, The Guardian newspaper reported, using documents provided by notorious leaker Edward Snowden.
Since 2007, the agencies have used the apps to grab the information, including users’ political affiliation, to find out things like “Where was my target when they did this?” and “Where is my target going?” the Times reported.
A May 2010 NSA slide on the agency's 'perfect scenario' for obtaining data from mobile apps.
One NSA slide from a 2010 presentation on data mining is headlined “Golden Nugget!” and describes a “perfect scenario” where a “target" is "uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device.”
“What can we get?” the slide implores of its agents.
The agencies do point to the data mining as leading to some success in disrupting terrorism, including an Al Qaeda bomb plot in 2007 in Germany, where the NSA used emails and web traffic to follow the plotters. And a similar use led to the arrest of drug cartel members accused of killing an American Consulate employee in Mexico in 2010, the Times reported.
But the data is so massive and broad that it can become too much for analysts. One month of NSA-collected cellphone data in 2009 led to more than 8.6 million callers of interest. Three months of British GCHQ information turned up more than 24.7 million callers of interest.