In a story released today by the New York Times it has been revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting mass social media information from citizens. In this undertaking that started in 2010, the NSA is graphing out networks from the information- scrutinizing details that include who a user tags in their profile. Those individuals are then also added to the graph for additional probing and investigation.
While this news is not a general surprise for millions, including those who label themselves “truthers,” the recent disclosure is still stunning. Former senior administrators who served under Obama admitted to the capture of information and its use by the NSA. What items are captured by the spying agency? Here are just several:
- Banking information.
- Facebook profiles, including information on friends–even down to what movies are selected to add.
- Booking a flight online? That too has been captured by the NSA.
- Property and tax information.
- GPS information directly from devices a citizen uses in their car.
- Religious affiliations.
- Political affiliations, voting records and even volunteering efforts.
A spokeswoman from the NSA explained to the New York Times that in 1979 a Supreme Court decision was approved. This ruling relayed that no citizen should expect privacy regarding the numbers they call. The circumvention of this information relating to social media information is obvious with a mere beyond the surface look. To connect a user to the Internet or to use a data plan on a non-cellular device (such as a tablet), a number is assigned to it.
Consider the tens of millions of social media users that access Facebook and Twitter from their cell phones. This is the gray area the NSA loves to play in. Once a user accesses their social media platforms from the phone, they have technically called another person. This information can then be collected “legally” from the NSA. These disclosures continue to be credited to the outspoken mind of Edward Snowden.
PowerPoint presentations and documents surfaced, displaying how the NSA developed specific software and tools to mine through user information. Gen. Keith Alexander, the powerhouse advocate behind NSA has made it publicly known he wants his agency to acquire more advanced tools. Alexander discussed in the memos recovered that collecting the information on an individual helps to identify “predictive” behavior, singling out the individual for recorded conversations and reading electronic transmissions.
A 2011 memo surfaced from the array of troubling documents, showing the NSA was granted access to contacts of Americans as long as a “foreign intelligence” tie was located and cited. What this basically means? The NSA can subject an American to tracking if they have a sliver of probability the American may have a foreign connection. This can be as simple as making a foreign purchase, or suspected ties of “terrorism.”
The lead resourceful tool created by the NSA was called “Mainway.” This digital repository made it possible for the agency to chain phone numbers, starting from one individual and working through every single connection that individual would have. Inclusive in this chain are e-mail addresses from all individuals tagged by the NSA.
The 2011 documents continue a worrisome trend. A bulletin surfaced showing the NSA was acquiring 700 million phone records on a daily basis. This exploded in the fall of 2011 when the NSA forced an unnamed service provider to grant them access to cell phone numbers. This resulted in an open pipeline of information to stream into Mainway. Over 1 billion cell phone records were deposited into Mainway daily. The NSA has commonly used the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, citing collection of communication –if they believe it is foreign.
Recent revelation of the documentation shows the NSA is hoarding the information on these collected users for up to five years. They can also physically house the paper trail for 10 years in warehouse of collected data. The NSA has declined to comment, they have declined to outline how extensive their list truly is and they refuse to comment if all information collected signify an American has completed any wrongdoings.
The NSA continues to become scrutinized by the public. The voice of the curious American is rising to a loud roar. Edward Snowden revealed information that continues to show the ugly, under the surface divide between the government and its people. The NSA is collecting social media information from citizens, documents have surfaced showing the extensive long-arm of the NSA. What is your take on this recently disclosed information?