NSA collects 5 billion cell phone records globally per day
By Lalit K Jha | PTI | Published: 05th December 2013 03:38 PM |
America's secretive National
Security Agency is collecting nearly five billion cell phone
records a day about the precise locations of individuals,
including non-US citizens, a media report said today.
The startling revelations by The Washington Post are
based on the classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a
former CIA contractor who is currently on an asylum in Russia.
According to the daily, the NSA does not target
Americans' location data by design, but the agency acquires a
substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of
domestic cellphones "incidentally", a legal term that connotes
a foreseeable but not deliberate result.
One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition
of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, told The Post
"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 US 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, the official said.
US officials said the programs that collect and analyze
location data are lawful and intended strictly to develop
intelligence about foreign targets, the daily reported.
According to Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office
of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the
NSA, "there is no element of the intelligence community that
under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone
location information about cellphones in the United States."
Noting that the NSA has no reason to suspect that the
movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users
would be relevant to national security, the daily said the
agency 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.
"Still, location 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," it said.