Top-secret documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden led to a joint investigation between The Guardian and the UK’s Channel 4 News that revealed the agency collects nearly 200 million text messages each day from around the globe as part of a program known as Dishfire.
According to an NSA document subtitled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit,” the agency collected 194 million texts per day on average in April 2011. In addition to building a database of texts, another program known as “Prefer” automatically analyses the data.
Broken down further, the NSA on average was able to extract more than five million missed call alerts, information on 1.6 million border crossings via network roaming alerts, more than 110,000 names from electronic business cards, over 800,000 financial transactions and geo-location information from around 76,000 text messages.
That’s a ton of data for just one day so one could only imagine how expansive the NSA’s database is at this point.
The NSA uses the data to extract location, contact networks and even credit card details according to The Guardian. The information is used to determine people’s travel plans, spy on financial transactions and more, even for people that aren’t suspected of illegal activity.
What’s more, the report claims that UK spy agency GCHQ has used the NSA’s database to search for untargeted and unwarranted communications from citizens in the country. GCHQ documents suggest the program is used to collect pretty much everything it can although the agency declined to comment on the matter.