NSA collects around 200 million text messages every day

Leaked document reveals agency extracts data including location, contact networks and credit card information

Published January 16, 2014 8:15PM (EST)


In line with previous revelations from Edward Snowden's cachet showing the NSA's use of dragnet surveillance, the Guardian reported Thursday that the NSA carries out a vast untargeted sweep of text messages daily.

The spy agency collects almost 200 million text messages a day from around the world, "using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents," reported the Guardian. A top-secret NSA presentation obtained by Snowden bears the subtitle "SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit.”

A document from the NSA's U.K. counterpart GHCQ also shows that the British spy agency used the NSA's SMS database, known as DISHFIRE, to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications belonging to people in the U.K.

Via the Guardian:

On average, each day the NSA was able to extract:

• More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when)

• Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts

• More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images.

• Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users

The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings”. Other travel information was obtained from itinerary texts sent by travel companies, even including cancellations and delays to travel plans.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

MORE FROM Natasha Lennard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Dishfire Dragnet Edward Snowden Gchq National Security Agency Nsa Privacy Sms Surveillance Text Messages