Your Text Messages May be Blind Copied to the NSA

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sending a text message from anywhere in the world could result in the National Security Agency (NSA) obtaining and storing a copy of it in its vast surveillance database, according to a British media investigation.


The Guardian newspaper and the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News discovered the NSA can collect nearly 200 million text messages a day from around the globe.


The U.S. spy agency reportedly extracts data from the messages, including location, contact networks and credit card information, according to classified documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden to the media outlets.


Text message collecting is done under a powerful program labeled Dishfire, which vacuums up “pretty much everything it can,” according to documents produced by GCHQ, the UK’s spy agency.


The GCHQ memo revealed that the data collecting is quite broad and includes texts (or SMS messages) belonging to individuals not suspected of any terrorist or illegal activity.


“In contrast to [most] GCHQ equivalents, DISHFIRE contains a large volume of unselected SMS traffic,” the document states (emphasis original), according to The Guardian. “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.”


An NSA document released by Snowden, which included the subtitled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit,” showed Dishfire collected an average of 194 million text messages a day in April 2011.


During a typical day, the NSA could extract from text messages 800,000 financial transactions, 113,000 electronic business cards and thousands of travel and meeting details.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

NSA Collects Millions of Text Messages Daily in ‘Untargeted’ Global Sweep (by James Ball, The Guardian)

Revealed: UK and US Spied on Text Messages of Brits (by Geoff White, Channel 4 News)

NSA Dishfire Presentation on Text Message Collection – Key Extracts (The Guardian)

NSA Hacked into Emails and Phone Calls of the Presidents of Mexico and Brazil (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Spies Collect 3 Billion Pieces of Intelligence a Day from Computer and Telephone Networks Worldwide (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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