US and UK spy agencies collaborate to glean personal data from mobile apps


The apps on your smartphone may be a source of personal information that can exploited by government spy agencies, says a series of reports by The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica. These sources recently published documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.This group of leaked documents suggest government spy agencies have been targeting mobile apps as part of their surveillance operations since 2007. Apps singled out by the US Nation Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters include Facebook, Yahoo’s Flickr, LinkedIn and Twitter. The two agencies have allegedly worked together to access personal data on user’s handsets such as address books, buddy lists, phone logs and geographic data.


Other apps targeted by the agencies include Google Maps and games like Angry Birds. Mapping apps and games were cited as a potential source of location data and casual profile information like age, gender and sexual orientation. Documents suggest the spy agencies routinely mine this data in the background, but details on how they intercept this information was not disclosed in the leaked documents. It is believed the agencies pick up this information using their existing mass surveillance tools, and are not pulling it directly from a phone.


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