Play Angry Birds, give data to the NSA

Documents provided by Snowden show how spy agencies use commercial data from "leaky" apps

By Natasha Lennard
Published January 27, 2014 11:12PM (UTC)
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Angry Birds: taking over your computer first, and then your mind.

The latest revelation from NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden's document trove details how the spy agency and its British counterpart, GHCQ, have been relying on so-called "leaky" smartphone apps -- like the game Angry Birds -- to obtain swathes of data.

Widely popular smartphone apps, which ask for user data, often make this data commercially available -- typically via agreements with third party advertisers -- without a user's knowing. As a leaked NSA document noted, such data is a "Golden Nugget" to data-hoarding spy agencies.

"Leaky" apps can gather an immense amount of personal information. As the Guardian, breaking the revelation Monday, reported:

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user's life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status – options included "single", "married", "divorced", "swinger" and more – income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.


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.

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Angry Birds Apps Data Edward Snowden Gchq Nsa Smartphones Spying Surveillance