THE UNITED STATES National Security Agency (NSA) picks up every face image that people share, according to the latest documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
A report at the New York Times said it had access to the documents and claimed that over the last few years the NSA has started collecting face images from emails, text messages, social media and apparently anywhere else that it fancies.
The newspaper said that all told the NSA is harvesting millions of images a day including a significant number that can be used to recognise people.
Documents from 2011 said that 55,000 "facial recognition quality images" are collected every day, and that the NSA calls such collection a "tremendous untapped potential".
An earlier report, from the year before, showed the NSA eyeing opportunities to acquire data. The newspaper said that the NSA specifically noted that non-traditional communications are its target.
"It's not just the traditional communications we're after: It's taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information that can help #implement precision targeting'," said that document.
The NSA commented on the report and it told us that it often looks to improve its intelligence, and does so to protect US people and allies.
"NSA's foreign intelligence operations support national security requirements, are as tailored as feasible, and are designed to comply with applicable US laws and policy direction, to include the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and Presidential Policy Directive No. 28," it said in a statement.
"We would not be doing our job if we didn't seek ways to continuously improve the precision of signals intelligence activities - aiming to counteract the efforts of valid foreign intelligence targets to disguise themselves or conceal plans to harm the United States and its allies. The lawful collection of foreign identity intelligence allows NSA to better identify and track such targets." µ