NSA tracks cellphone locations worldwide to map relationships between owners

By on December 5, 2013, 2:30 PM

The National Security Agency gathers close to five billion records per way with regard to the whereabouts of cell phones across the globe. The information is then stored in a massive database that keeps track of the locations of hundreds of millions of handsets according to the latest leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Documents suggest the NSA doesn’t target the locations of Americans’ cell phones on purpose but rather “incidentally.” An anonymous senior collection manager said the NSA gathers vast volumes of data by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks, both stateside and abroad. The source declined to give an exact number of devices tracked, however, saying it would be awkward for them to try to provide specific numbers.

Based on the vast pool of data at their disposal, agents can find a cell phone anywhere in the world and retrace its movements. This can help the agency identify hidden relationships among those using the devices, we’re told, and accurately map out exactly where the user has been. Mobile phones are known to broadcast their location even when they aren’t being used to place a call.

Naturally, officials in the US said the programs used to collect and analyze data are within the bounds of the law and are done so strictly to gather intelligence about foreign targets. Legal or not, however, many privacy advocacy groups believe location data is uniquely sensitive. That’s even truer when the majority of data collected isn’t relevant to national security.




User Comments: 12

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1 person liked this | insect said:

Another waste of government money... why spent all this time hacking when people free report their location to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter by "checking in" at some location? /sarcasm

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

"Naturally, officials in the US said the programs used to collect and analyze data are within the bounds of the law".

Tell those officials I have hacked into their phones and computers. I am watching/reading their private phone calls and emails then using the data to build a threat profile based on their activity. I know thier childrens birthdays and schools they attend, and should I get mad & feel the need I will teach them a real lesson.

When they come to my house and try to arrest me I'll say "my programs to collect and analyze data are within the bounds of the law."

Guest said:

How is that "Hope & Change" treating you now?

Guest said:

NSA tracks cellphone locations worldwide to map relationships between owners

... among other things.

The source declined to give an exact number of devices tracked, however, saying it would be awkward for them to try to provide specific numbers.

... and saying 'everyone' would be too easy.

dennis777 dennis777 said:

It seems to me that "they are using Foursquare account and they got friends worldwide"

Guest said:

If you've been keeping score or paying attention you know that none of this spying business started under Obama. It's a government problem that transcends political party.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

If you've been keeping score or paying attention you know that none of this spying business started under Obama. It's a government problem that transcends political party.
You lost me! Who the hell said this started under Obama in this conversation?

1 person liked this | insect said:

You lost me! Who the hell said this started under Obama in this conversation?

The guest. For those who were not inundated with presidential campaign rhetoric a few years ago Obama's campaign slogans used the words "Hope" and "Change" and the guest made a snide remark rather than make a thoughtful response or even think about the fact that the Patriot Act that allowed all of this was signed into law by a democratic congress and a republican president with the full support of a fearful public shortly after 9/11/01.

Guest said:

I understand the motivation, and appreciate the complexity of the NSA trying to do their job and fulfill the duty they are entrusted with. I can see the rational progression of logic by politicians, believing that the pursuit of physical safety merits some constitutional infringement of individual liberty. I am resigned to the fact that the inefficiencies of any large system will lead to failures of oversight, and thoroughly believe that the United States government is necessarily a large system.

But Jesus F**king Christ. It is possible to serve one's country without intentionally abusing the weaknesses in the system and sh*tting on the entire purpose of democracy, I.e. not living in a fascist and totalitarian State. If constitutional surveillance means we are actually more vulnerable to physical attack, so be it, and consider it the cost of living in a country that honestly values freedom and liberty.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Security and files and people and known whereabouts have changed since 9/11 era. The government agencies that police us here in the USA will take whatever means possible to protect this country from threats outside this country or within it. No matter what party is in the White House now. That's all Folks!

2 people like this | psycros psycros said:

..I can see the rational progression of logic by politicians, believing that the pursuit of physical safety merits some constitutional infringement of individual liberty. I am resigned to the fact that the inefficiencies of any large system will lead to failures of oversight, and thoroughly believe that the United States government is necessarily a large system.

..If constitutional surveillance means we are actually more vulnerable to physical attack, so be it, and consider it the cost of living in a country that honestly values freedom and liberty.

That's the problem - there's nothing "constitutional" about it. Life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness. Where is liberty when you are being tracked WITHOUT CAUSE? This is presumption of guilt, folks. Its the very antithesis of what America stands for. And yet only a handful of us will actually care until the door is being kicked in because you posted on a forum that you disagree with the government. Its happening all over the country right now..dig a little deeper and its not that hard to find the examples. The misguided conservative hawks in the previous administration set the stage for what we're seeing today. The current administration is barely bothering to conceal its totalitarian desires and is happy to abuse its power to push an agenda and silence dissent. We are living in incredibly dangerous times.

Eddo22 said:

..I can see the rational progression of logic by politicians, believing that the pursuit of physical safety merits some constitutional infringement of individual liberty. I am resigned to the fact that the inefficiencies of any large system will lead to failures of oversight, and thoroughly believe that the United States government is necessarily a large system.

..If constitutional surveillance means we are actually more vulnerable to physical attack, so be it, and consider it the cost of living in a country that honestly values freedom and liberty.

That's the problem - there's nothing "constitutional" about it. Life, LIBERTY and the pursuit of happiness. Where is liberty when you are being tracked WITHOUT CAUSE? This is presumption of guilt, folks. Its the very antithesis of what America stands for. And yet only a handful of us will actually care until the door is being kicked in because you posted on a forum that you disagree with the government. Its happening all over the country right now..dig a little deeper and its not that hard to find the examples. The misguided conservative hawks in the previous administration set the stage for what we're seeing today. The current administration is barely bothering to conceal its totalitarian desires and is happy to abuse its power to push an agenda and silence dissent. We are living in incredibly dangerous times.

It's no longer 'Innocent until proven guilty' It's 'Guilty until proven innocent'!

My brother already experienced this early this year. He was hit by a drunk driver while he was out on his mountain bike. The rcmp took everything of his including his torn clothes as if he was suspect for getting hit. They even took things apart like his mini flashlight and bike presumably looking for drugs.

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