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NSA collects daily data from over 200m text messages around the world

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The US National Security Agency (NSA) has collected and stored data from over 200 million text messages daily from users across the world.

According to UK spies part of a joint investigation by the Guardian and Channel 4, the NDA extracts and stores the data from your SMS messages.

The investigation discovered the NSA’s activities through material leaked by ex-NSA employee, and whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

From the “untargeted” collection and storage of over 200 million texts per day, the NSA gains personal information like your location, credit card details and contact networks, according to the documents leaked.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to documents held by the UK spy agency GCHQ, rather than only from surveillance targets.

GCHQ has used the information obtained by Dishfire to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications of UK citizens.

“The implication that NSA’s collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false,” said the NSA in a statement. “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – valid foreign intelligence targets in response to intelligence requirements.”

The GCHQ also stated that all its work was “carried out in accordance with the strict legal and policy framework.”

In addition to storing the SMS data, the NSA also employs a program called “Prefer” to conduct automated analysis on all the communications.

According to the investigation’s findings, the NSA is able to extract the following each day:

  • More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-sharing analysis
  • Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts
  • More than 110,000 names from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images
  • Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phones

The GCHQ isn’t allowed to trawl the NSA data unless it has a warrant, and a memo sets out clearly what access to Dishfire is allowed. It does clearly state that Dishfire’s unique property is that it stores a huge amount of untargeted and unselected information.

“In contrast to [most] GCHQ equivalents, DISHFIRE contains a large volume of unselected SMS traffic. This makes it particularly useful for the development of new targets, since it is possible to examine the content of messages sent months or even years before the target was known to be of interest”, reads the GCHQ memo.

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Via: The Guardian

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