The 1984-esque Orwellian portrayal of modern society continues and Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, has now suggested that spy agencies are gathering personal data through popular smartphone apps such as Angry Birds. New documents have been published Monday by The New York Times that claim these applications are being used to supply the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ with bucket loads of personal information about every day citizens.
The permissions we allow application companies like Angry Birds’ Rovio Entertainment Ltd to write, are quite lengthy and intrusive. Cell phone data tracking can include personal contact lists, phone state, call lists, text messages, and more. This access is all bundled up in the agreements from app stores, and people still gladly click “accept.” Could personal data be used maliciously against a person? Of course it could. Anyone that’s ever had a significant other knows how that goes.
Does this really mean people are being watched by Big Brother with the NSA gathering data from Angry Birds?
Angry Birds has been downloaded over 2 billion times. Although the exact number is confidential, the National Security Agency has an estimated current base of 40,000 employees. Simple math shows that each NSA employee would have to sift through 50,000 individual smartphone data caches to figure out how much of a threat you and your Angry Birds addiction are to the people of the United States. At a mere 5 minutes spent investigating each user, it would take 100 percent of the NSA workforce, working 40 hour weeks, a little over two years to find the hidden correlations between someone and their favorite application.
Welcome to the age of big data. Companies like Google and Facebook, whom offer ease of information to the consumer are still in business to make profits. They have thousands of staff members that depend on them continuing to yield income, and even more users that have come to expect a certain level of service. Offering up data that a user has given consent to record is the trade-off that a user will allow when they make use of their tools. The simple solution would have to be if a user is against it, don’t play ball.
A major area of concern is using this transparency maliciously towards the population. It seems to be an outrage to Americans that the government and the corporations, at their base are curious human beings much like everyone else. Companies built by men and women are trying to be successful, and achieve the highest quality of life. They see positive growth in knowing their customers. Meanwhile, the government is trying to keep the promises they have made, fix problems, keep everyone safe, and allow all the opportunity to grow.
People have been provided with the means to obtain information about anything they can think of, in as little amount of time as possible. All sorts of entertainment platforms are delivered at the press of a button. Vast tools and resources are available at no monetary cost, that each and every one can use to their own advantage. Coupled with the ability to learn more about a user, companies are making their products better, and more appealing. Marketing plans and advertisements based on likes, dislikes, wants, and needs, have proven to be more effective. From the outside looking in, doesn’t it make some sort of sense?
Maybe some don’t feel it’s fair or just that the NSA is gathering data from Angry Birds. Maybe they feel lied to. After all, change can be frightening. Don’t think of all of this as a personal attack against anyone and those that they love. Continue moving forward, chase dreams, and utilize the knowledge and expertise that’s around. Living in fear isn’t living much at all. Take a deep breath, and beat that stubborn level already.
By Vyctor Andres