NSA is tracking 5 billion cellphone calls everyday


The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.  

One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them.

The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.

Lcation data, especially when aggregated over time, are widely regarded among privacy advocates as uniquely sensitive. Sophisticated mathematical tech­niques enable NSA analysts to map cellphone owners’ relationships by correlating their patterns of movement over time with thousands or millions of other phone users who cross their paths. Cellphones broadcast their locations even when they are not being used to place a call or send a text message.

CO-TRAVELER and related tools require the methodical collection and storage of location data on what amounts to a planetary scale. The government is tracking people from afar into confidential business meetings or personal visits to medical facilities, hotel rooms, private homes and other traditionally protected spaces.

“One of the key components of location data, and why it’s so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don’t let you keep it private,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. People who value their privacy can encrypt their e-mails and disguise their online identities, but “the only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave.”


NSA is tracking so many people’s cellphones they can’t handle the data storage:

The NSA cannot know in advance which tiny fraction of 1 percent of the records it may need, so it collects and keeps as many as it can — 27 terabytes, by one account, or more than double the text content of the Library of Congress’s print collection.

The location programs have brought in such volumes of information, according to a May 2012 internal NSA briefing, that they are “outpacing our ability to ingest, process and store” data. In the ensuing year and a half, the NSA has been transitioning to a processing system that provided it with greater capacity.

The NSA defends the program by saying that it uses the location data to find “unknown associates of known intelligence targets.” Basically, it’s tracking where everyone goes, just in case people end up spending time with people the NSA deems as being terrorists. However, that also means that the NSA has an astounding amount of really personal data on where pretty much everyone goes outside of the US, including who they meet with. The ability to abuse that data should be rather obvious. From that data, you can not only determine private business meetings, but you can figure out what doctors people go to, if they’re cheating on their spouse, etc. And, given last week’s revelations that the NSA has no qualms (at all) about using data on non-terrorists to embarrass them for the sake of embarrassing them, it’s not difficult to see how the NSA might do the same over information gleaned from this vast trough of location information. 

Elsewhere in the article, they quote NSA officials repeatedly saying that the program is “tuned to be looking outside the United States,” but not saying it only collects info outside the US. Also, they make clear, once a person leaves the US, the NSA no longer believes the 4th Amendment applies to them, so their location is fair game in this giant database.. Asked for specific numbers, an NSA person said: 

“It’s awkward for us to try to provide any specific numbers…” 

And, at that point, they were cut off by an NSA spokesperson who didn’t want the person to go any further. In other words, it’s “awkward” for the NSA to admit that it’s spying on pretty much everyone. Everyone.

Obama says he’s not allowed iPhone for ‘security reasons’

President Obama said he is not allowed to have Apple’s smart phone, the iPhone, for “security reasons,” though he still uses Apple’s tablet computer, the iPad.

Apple was one of several tech companies that may have allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) direct access to servers containing customer data, according to revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.


8 thoughts on “NSA is tracking 5 billion cellphone calls everyday

  1. If you are active or a recent military veteran, you are of high probability for being snooped on. just ask me about it.

      1. Hey Angel. 🙂

        Been slacking badly the last couple days. Haven’t even sent anything in.

        Got lost in the damn ozone again. Hate it when that happens.

        1. 🙂 We all need a little chill time once in a while.
          Glad to see ya back. (Thought you might have gone to visit your brother, or something.) 🙂

          1. No, my brother sold his house, and is living up in Washington now. Probably won’t be seeing him again. (Hopefully I will, but realistically? Not likely).

            Actually, Tuesday wasn’t my fault. I was able to access my e-mail early in the evening, but for some reason, later on I couldn’t. It was down till the next morning.

            There’s still that fog to get through, though.

          2. Dude, you need to get the hell out of Commiefornia and stay with your brother or try to find a job out there or something. Would he able to help you at all? Anything’s better than staying in doomed Commiefornia. That state is getting darker by the day from what I read in the news all the time. What’s your work experience like? Maybe I can help you find a job in Texas.

          3. I’m barely surviving on what I’m making at this job, NC. By all accounts, there’s no decent work to be found anywhere, other than high tech fields. The only way I can quit this job is if I sell everything and go off grid somewhere.

            Easier said than done, unfortunately.

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