The latest revelations on NSA snooping and surveillance reveal that the agency has been actively harvesting contact lists from from Yahoo, Hotmail, Facebook, Gmail and other service provides in a effort to map relationships worldwide.
Reports indicate that secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the NSA have been collecting data from millions of email and instant messaging address books, mostly from accounts held by foreign nationals, but also from a large number of U.S. citizens.
“The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and ‘buddy lists’ from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers,” the Washington Post reported.
How much data is the NSA collecting? A leaked PowerPoint document indicates that an average day might net “444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers,” according to the report.
The data is being harvested by way of secret agreements with service providers and through relationships with foreign intelligence agencies.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who provides oversite for the NSA, the program “is focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers. We are not interested in personal information about ordinary Americans.”
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