Report: Snowden leaks show NSA is tracking ‘Angry Birds’ mobile user data

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

The National Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters may be spying on your Angry Birds gaming sessions, the Guardian reported Monday.

WHISTLEBLOWER: Edward Snowden exposed NSA activities to the British press.

By collecting commercial data generated during a session on a mobile app such as Angry Birds, the publication reported, the agency is able to collect a wide spectrum of revealing details about an individual iPhone or Android smartphone user, and the user is none the wiser.

The agency — using programs with code names such as DREAMY SMURF and PARANOID SMURF — collects user data ranging from a person’s marital status, sexual orientation, physical location, and even records conversations.

The Guardian reported its latest revelation about the agencies, in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, based on classified national security documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Even before Snowden’s revelations about the agencies began in June 2013, consumer anxieties over the increasing erosion of personal privacy continued to be stoked by the accelerated adoption of devices like smartphones and tablets.

The Wall Street Journal published an analysis in December 2010 detailing the troves of data mobile apps collected on iPhone and Android smartphone users.

Snowden’s revelations demonstrated what many users and privacy advocates suspected, however — that governments have been leveraging these same technologies as extensions of their intelligence collection capabilities.

The Guardian’s latest report comes 10 days after President Obama addressed the public about the U.S. government’s phone metadata collection program.

The phone metadata collection program, which is congressionally authorized under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, is one of numerous capabilities at the NSA’s disposal.

The executive branch, however, has been careful to keep the debate largely focused on the usefulness and legality of that particular program.

Wisconsin Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the Patriot Act, also noted during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the program in July 2013 that Section 215 expires in 2015.

“Section 215 expires at the end of 2015, and unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed,” Sensenbrenner said.

Sensenbrenner and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced legislation in October 2013 to rein in the U.S. intelligence community’s electronic data collection activities.

Called the USA FREEDOM Act, the bill would “reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices.”

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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