The National Security Agency and British Government Communications Headquarters have been working together since 2007 to plant surveillance into mobile phone users’ applications, allowing them to store location information, alongside a slew of other private information users put into applications.
Popular app Angry Birds was targeted, alongside more common information hotspots like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The NSA was able to find out political alignment and sexual orientation, amongst other personal details on app users.
Google Maps was a prime target for the British organisation helping the NSA, being able to track users location to a few yards. The spy agencies are able to download all users data and store it onto their databases, where new information would crop up and show location, age, sex, marital status and even household income.
Using the term “leaky-apps”, the NSA and other spy agencies were capable of exploiting weaknesses on the different mobile platforms, allowing them to check in on apps without strong security. Once the app had been compromised, the spy agencies relentlessly downloaded and monitored users information.
In the leaked reports, provided by Edward Snowden, the agency does detail some success thanks to the mobile surveillance. Teams were able to capture several members of a drug cartel hit squad in Mexico and arrest them for the murder of an American Consulate in Mexico.
This one helpful act and a few others don’t really make up for the immense amount of data procured on every app user. President Obama has forced restrictions on NSA spying activity, but for mobile apps like this there is currently on restrictions and shows even more hidden details we still do not know about the NSA.
Mobile phones are more of a problem, on computers users normally do not reveal location and are not mobile, but phones provide a bit of both for spy agencies. While the location tracking may be positive for hunting criminals, both spy agencies cannot consider the vast amount of data collection worth the small rewards in Mexico.
By Walter Bailey
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