Your favorite smartphone application might be sending your personal information to intelligence agencies.
The National Security Agency and U.K. counterpart Government Communication Headquarters developed the capability to use "leaky" smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users' private information across the Internet, according to top secret documents, the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, dozens of classified documents provided by former NSA contractor-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with The New York Times and ProPublica detail the NSA and GCHQ's efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes:
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.
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.
Depending on the privacy settings the user has chosen to supply, the agency could collect key details of a user's life including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included "single", "married", "divorced", "swinger" and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level and number of children.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday dodged questions about the NSA grabbing information from "leaky" apps, saying he couldn't comment on "specifics on intelligence collection," reported Politico.
"But to be clear, as the president said in his January 17 speech, to the extent data is collected by the NSA through whatever means, we are not interested in the communications of people who are not valid intelligence targets. And we are not collecting the information of ordinary Americans,” Carney said.
For the full story, see the Guardian.