The National Security Agency has been collecting nearly 200 million text messages a day worldwide, leaked top-secret documents show.
The documents were published by The Guardian and were collected by Edward Snowden. The NSA uses the texts to glean various details like location data, contact networks and more.
UK spy agency GCHQ documents show that the program is called Dishfire and aims to collect “pretty much everything it can.” The program is able to collect everyday about 5 million missed-call alerts, 1.6 million border crossings, 800,000 financial transactions and geolocation data.
An NSA spokeswoman said that any hint the collection was “arbitrary and unconstrained is false.” The agency only looked for “valid foreign intelligence targets.”
Data collected from outside the U.S. was more often kept in a database than U.S. citizens’ information. According to Channel 4 News, the data from U.S.-related texts would have to have been deleted due to U.S. laws.
Dishfire also offered GCHQ and the NSA the ability to get data from cell phones that is years old. The documents say, “This makes it particularly useful for 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.”
The program also helped the UK spy agency slip by the need for a Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act because the data was not being collected by GCHQ, but a foreign intelligence agency.
image: Wikimedia Commons