Smartphone users and privacy advocates alike will be startled at this bit of recent news: German news outlet Der Spiegel is reporting that the U.S. intelligence community, headed by the National Security Agency, has access to data stored on all major smartphones, says The Associated Press on Sept 8.
Large scale data mining has been at the core of recent controversies, as disclosures that the NSA broke thousands of privacy rules continues to fuel mounting concerns about breaches in our civil liberties.
Spiegel says they obtained “top secret NSA documents” that show NSA capability to tap into information held within all three major smartphone brands: Apple iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Google's Android phones.
“The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smartphones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been,” says the Spiegel report.
The so-called secret documents allegedly show the NSA has established “specific working groups” to coordinate with each of the major operating systems in order to facilitate the withdrawal of personal data.
Specific NSA abilities to yank info out of the smartphones is astounding: The report says the NSA can “enable additional access to at least 38 iPhone features,” and can “see and read SMS traffic” on Blackberrys.
BlackBerry officials rebuffed the report, stating "It is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic," and adding that they do not have a "back-door pipeline to our platform."
“Der Spiegel says the documents don't indicate that the NSA is conducting mass surveillance of phone users but rather that these techniques are used to eavesdrop on specific individuals,” says the AP report.
Spiegel does not indicate how it obtained such secret documents, but one of the report’s authors, notably, is Laura Poitras, an American filmmaker with close contacts to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the AP points out.
The government has always fallen back on the mantra of individual snooping as needed, as opposed to mining information from the masses and sorting it out later. What's your take on this recent disclosure? Sound off below.