ACCORDING TO FRESHLY RELEASED documents the US National Security Agency (NSA) has the capability to track mobile phones, and it uses that capability.
Leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden and published by the Washington Post show that every day there are five billion records produced on the whereabouts of mobile phones, and that the records are culled from 10 places on the cellphone network that are described as Sigads (signals intelligence activity designators).
Data on US citizens is not intentionally collected, according to the report, but is a happy coincidence. Collected for sure is international data, and any data thrown up by travelling US citizens. However, according to ACLU privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian, it is mostly foreign content.
Soghoian also pondered whether the NSA was doing this with the knowledge and approval of the FISA court, which is often referred to in these US surveillance cases.
So did the FISA court approve NSA's interception of 5 billion cellular location records per day or did they just use exec order 12333?— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) December 4, 2013
He told the Washington Post that there is a way to avoid the NSA cellphone dragnet, but it's not very appealing. "The only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave," he said.
Hundreds of millions of devices are thought to be in the NSA cellphone surveillance dragnet, and it is possible that people can be traced through their journeys.
Insiders who did not want to be named told the newspaper that the NSA gets "vast volumes" of data. However, Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) told the newspaper that "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." The ODNI oversees the work of the NSA.
Locations are collected in bulk through a system called CO-TRAVELER that is designed to see patterns of interactions between people.
Two months ago, reminded the Washington Post, NSA director General Keith Alexander confessed that there are secret programmes for monitoring Americans through their cell phones. µ
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