U.S. and British spy agencies have been exploiting "Angry Birds" and
other so-called leaky smartphone apps to collect users' personal
information, including sexual orientation and preferences, according to
documents taken by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.
agencies have also snagged address books, buddy lists and phone logs,
and swiped location information from Google Maps when photos are posted
to social media sites.
Since 2007, the National Security Agency
and Britain's Government Communications Headquarters have been siphoning
details provided by users or transmitted by their phones, the
previously secret files published Monday by the Guardian, The New York Timesand ProPublica revealed.
The Guardian writes that depending on the particular "profile
information" a user supplied, "the documents suggested, the agency would
be able to collect almost every key detail 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."
Previous files passed by Snowden to news outlets revealed the spy
agencies' intelligence collection on mobile phone networks, but the
latest batch offers "far more details of their ambitions for smartphones
and the apps that run on them," the Times writes.
One British document included a slide for a top-secret 2010 talk that described the "Golden Nugget!":
"Perfect Scenario -- Target uploading photo to a social media site with a mobile device. What can we get?"
The iPhone and Android phones were identified as treasure troves of data.
Some apps transmit limited information that identifies a handset's model, ID number and software version.
The maker of "Angry Birds," Rovio, told the Guardian it was unaware of the spy agencies efforts to collect personal information from its users.
The mobile-ad platform Millennial Media was cited as offering
"particularly rich information" because of a special edition of "Angry
Birds" and collaborations with "Farmville" maker Zynga, "Call of Duty"
developer Activision and other big-name content developers.
NSA has said that it does not target Americans and that any data
collected from mass surveillance is inadvertent. The agency maintains
that it is focused only on "valid foreign intelligence targets."
this month, President Obama announced new NSA restrictions intended to
protect the privacy of Americans and the personal communications of
friendly foreign leaders. The safeguards apparently do not pertain to
the wealth of personal data obtained from leaky apps.