It used to be that only street-dwelling nutjobs in tinfoil hats worried about having their movements monitored by some shady government, but even normal folk might want to start getting concerned. According to the latest mind-bendering release from ex-NSA leaky faucet Edward Snowden, his former employers at America’s National Security Agency are logging phone location records from nearly five billion mobiles every day. Five billion!
The eye-brow raising revelation was reported in the Washington Post. It explained how the data was being collected to aid the NSA in tracking and mapping individuals known to be of interest to its anti-terror work in a way that was “previously unimaginable”, and the Agency had now stolen so much data from unsuspecting smartphone users around the world that it was sat on some 27 terabytes of the stuff and struggling to actually analyse it; which will teach them!
As though the feeling of being violated by a faceless American drone wasn’t enough, it seems that only 1 per cent of the data gathered and analysed by the NSA’s anti-terror ‘Co-Traveler’ computer system is actually of any use in the tracking and mapping of terror-doers. However, on the flipside, the analysis that is useful is so detailed that it can be used to pinpoint bad people who think they’re safe from detection by using a disposable phone or by switching their mobile off after only a swift burst of use. Terrorists do not play Angry Birds.
Naturally, digital rights groups have been quick to condemn the NSA’s free and easy approach to helping itself to other people’s private property – five billion people’s, in case the number slipped your mind – but given that we’re almost becoming desensitised to Snowden’s secret slipping these days, while it may be shocking, is it really an actual surprise anymore?