U.S. NSA watching, tracking phone users with Google Maps

“The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of ‘leaky’ smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet, according to top secret documents,” James Ball reports for The Guardian.

“The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger,” Ball reports. “Dozens of classified documents, provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, detail the NSA and GCHQ efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes.”

“Exploiting phone information and location is a high-priority effort for the intelligence agencies, as terrorists and other intelligence targets make substantial use of phones in planning and carrying out their activities, for example by using phones as triggering devices in conflict zones. The NSA has cumulatively spent more than $1bn in its phone targeting efforts,” Ball reports. “The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world – meaning that just by taking tower ID from a handset, location information could be gleaned.”

“A more sophisticated effort, though, relied on intercepting Google Maps queries made on smartphones, and using them to collect large volumes of location information,” Ball reports. “So successful was this effort that one 2008 document noted that ‘[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

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18 Comments

  1. Ronald Reagan was nothing but a corporate shill before, during, and after his presidency. Quoting a speech he made that someone else wrote is really ridiculous if you actually know anything about Reagan. But of course the Reagan worshippers don’t.

    1. Darwin, calm down. Even people who you disagree with often make statements that we can all agree with. I would offer the statement quoted by MDN as one of those universally true statements.

    1. I deleted the very last bit of Google from my life (YouTube account) last week. One of the committees of which I am a member switched from Google Docs to Basecamp just yesterday, mostly because I refused to have a Google account in order to view Google Docs. Google is slime.

  2. I find it pathetic that people are just now only finding out about this. People like me knew all along that our governments are corrupt, and they don’t care one bit about their constituents. They only care about their reputations. We are just a faceless mass to these liars and cheaters.
    Throughout the 1950s, there were debates about wether Hawaii should gain independence or become a state. There is one problem though: The ballot only had 2 choices: Statehood or Territory. Did not even list independence! We have been an illegal state for more than half-century and know one cared one bit! Not even the UN, and they had the List of Non-Governing Self-Determined Colonies, and Hawaii is not on that list! The USA is a joke, the European Union is a joke, and the United Nations are a joke! Government in any form is ineffective! It is sad that no one knows, and even if they did, they would not care one bit…

      1. Why am I a joke? I am rightfully frustrated with all of the things that has happened on my islands since Statehood. Many of my people there believe that we were cheated out of having our own destiny, and that we didn’t ask to be part of a very brutal empire. Throughout most of the 19th Century, we were an Independent Kingdom of Hawaii. In the 1890s, the US Navy took over the Islands, and put Queen Lili’oukaliani into house arrest and abused her. Shortly after, our Islands became US Territory. Sometimes…I feel that things would have turned out better if the US did not interfere with our affairs.

        1. I seriously doubt you don’t have your own destiny. Even within the federal system, each state has their own constitution, and can make their own laws. There are inalienable rights that the US Constitution protects, and I haven’t seen anyone say they were a bad idea. Sure some are trying to chip away at them but they will not stand up and say they are wrong.

          Now about how life would be better without the Hawaii being apart of the US as a state or territory: I think you miss the development or economic gain you received by being a part of the Union. Singapore, as an example, exists smack in the middle of trade routs. I would suspect you wouldn’t have this potential by yourselves.

          However with that said, Hawaii, looking at all historical aspects most likely would not exist as an independent state. Regardless of US involvement. You would either be part of another nation, like Japan, or other island group, maybe as capital, or as subject. Hawaii is so remote, it’s hard to tell.

          Trying to second guess what could have been, is not healthy.

          Between you and me, I have visited Hawaii twice. I am proud of its membership with the US, and it adds a lot of culture. I respect Hawaiian tradition, and history.

          Hawaii, is what it is. Before statehood, it was already a mixed society.

        2. Hawaii is in a strategically important location in the Pacific for imperialist superpowers. Just be grateful you’re not in Vietnam or Korea – those guys have a really rough history of imperialist meddling.

      2. “You are the joke”. Says the person who constantly spreads FUD about Apple on these boards. At first, i agreed with you on some things, such as iOS 7’s questionable design choices, but lately, you have been sounding like a butthurt Fandroid troll. Go back to Android Authority where you will be a lot more happier.

  3. Why not rate or identify leaky apps and warn others about them. Since this data is being freely shelled out by these apps, the fault on this one is not the NSA, but the app developer itself. If I knew Angry Birds was leaky, I would never have played it in the first place. Also there should be laws against obtaining information about a person, if they are not directly asked. Laws don’t stop people from breaking them, but they offer recourse when abuse is discovered. We need more accountability.

    1. i wonder…. maybe we are looking at this all wrong… we are all rightly outraged about this snooping by the feds, and we keep thinking about how to cut it back or stop it – as if that will ever happen

      so maybe the other alternative is to flood them with useless information and overload their capacity to store and process it – like maybe include keywords that will set their hair on fire in all of your emails – no doubt mr snowden could tell us those are – and just have all of our communications become a firehose of info they cannot handle.

      nsa/cia/dia and others have already been pickeling in the brine of suspicion since 9/11 lets overload them with stimuli

      1. I thought about that. We as humans are really good at filtering out noise. Computers over time will get better. So as much as we overwhelm the system to make us less noticeable, ultimately we won’t be able hide behind that.

        We can find planets despite all the gas and stars. We can do this because we have learned to infer them and filter out the rest of the universe.

        Maybe there is no solution. But like I was thinking, there needs to be recourse, at the minimum.

    1. So what that article is trying to say is, that Rovio my now only develop for iOS because they don’t trust the other companies platforms? If that is the case, then that is a smart move on them. Besides, you can always find “Angry Birds” knockoffs in the Play Store. If you can find iOS 7 knockoff skins in that store, then there is no problem finding a game that looks exactly, but not quite like, Angry Birds. People who knowingly buy knockoff tablets/phones deserve poor quality games.

  4. The bottom line in all the NSA spying is this:
    1- It is unconstitutional despite faked up “secret” law designed to keep politicians out of jail.
    2- It defies the very foundational principles of privacy our founders though so important they were made conditions of approval for the Constitution that organizes our government and legal system.
    3- Not one terrorist incident has been thwarted by this worldwide dragnet despite vague claims by politicians with an interest in claiming otherwise. Both the Congressional and Presidential boards looking at this said the NSA programs need to stop.

    Flipboard on all of this for those interested:

    http://flip.it/Q4une

  5. This mass information gathering may very well be counter-productive. There is some research that implies that you are actually less likely to detect a threat if you are buried in a ton of information gathered from everywhere and everything. Actual threats can be undetectable in all the noise.

    ——RM

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