Business Technology

Saturday 21 April 2018

NSA 'tracks mobile phones around the world'

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

Hayley Dixon

The latest leaks from Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower, claim that the NSA gathers records which allow them to trace individuals across the globe.

Almost five billion records a day are being gathered which allow intelligence officials to track individuals and map their relationships in ways previously unimaginable, the classified documents suggest.

The records and interviews with US officials, seen by the Washington Post, are said to show that the information feeds into a vast database which stores information on hundreds of millions of devices, providing agents with a mass surveillance tool.

The location data comes from tapping into cables connecting mobile phone networks around the world, it is said.

Analysts are able to locate a mobile phone and then retrace the owner’s movements, exposing their connections to others, it is claimed.

The NSA said that they do not intend to target the location of their citizens, but acquire a large amount of information “incidentally”, it is said.

In terms of scale and scope, it could be the largest NSA surveillance programme revealed since the leaks began in June, it is claimed.

Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, told the Washington Post 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 latest leaks come as Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister, called for an inquiry into state surveillance.

Mr Baker defended the Guardian's publication of secret information.

When asked by the New Statesman whether he would like to see an inquiry into the allegations, he said: "Yes. In my view, it's perfectly reasonable for the Guardian to raise questions about the balance between the state and the individual to take account of the fact that technology has moved on a huge amount and the law was drafted when we didn't have the means of communication we do now – Skype and everything else – and the capacity of the security services, or the Americans, to engage in trawling for stuff."

Mr Baker's appointment at the Home Office reportedly left Theresa May, the Home Secretary, "spitting tacks" and he told the New Statesman that the atmosphere at the department was "hostile".

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