The NSA Is Trying to Spy on You When You Play Angry Birds

New documents show that even our favorite pocket time-waster may not be safe from the agency’s surveillance capabilities.

A visitor walks through Shanghai's first Angry Birds Activity Park at Tongji University in Shanghai on October 31, 2012.  
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Jan. 27, 2014, 8:16 a.m.

The Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency and its Brit­ish equi­val­ent are work­ing to ex­ploit “leaky” smart­phone apps such as the in­sanely pop­u­lar Angry Birds games that share user data over the In­ter­net, ac­cord­ing to new re­ports by ma­jor pub­lic­a­tions.

Newly di­vulged clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, provided by Ed­ward Snowden and re­vealed just a day be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress, show that the NSA has been work­ing with Bri­tain’s Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­nic­a­tions Headquar­ters since as far back as 2007 to de­vel­op cap­ab­il­it­ies to ex­tract data from smart­phone app use. Si­phon­ing loc­a­tion in­form­a­tion from Google Maps or per­son­al data from ad­dress books and mo­bile posts on so­cial net­works are a few of the ex­amples men­tioned as part of a bi­lat­er­al agency ini­ti­at­ive known as “the mo­bile surge.”

The open­ing para­graphs of The New York Times’ re­port paint a vivid pic­ture:

When a smart­phone user opens Angry Birds, the pop­u­lar game ap­plic­a­tion, and starts sling­ing birds at chort­ling green pigs, spy agen­cies have plot­ted how to lurk in the back­ground to snatch data re­veal­ing the play­er’s loc­a­tion, age, sex, and oth­er per­son­al in­form­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to secret Brit­ish in­tel­li­gence doc­u­ments.

In their globe-span­ning sur­veil­lance for ter­ror­ism sus­pects and oth­er tar­gets, the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency and its Brit­ish coun­ter­part have been try­ing to ex­ploit a ba­sic byproduct of mod­ern tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions: With each new gen­er­a­tion of mo­bile phone tech­no­logy, ever great­er amounts of per­son­al data pour onto net­works where spies can pick it up.

Though the size and scope of the pro­gram re­mains un­clear, NSA ana­lysts are again por­trayed to be ooz­ing with en­thu­si­asm at their sur­veil­lance might. One leaked slide titled “Golden Nug­get!” de­scribes the “per­fect scen­ario” of a “tar­get up­load­ing [a] photo to a so­cial me­dia site taken with a mo­bile device” and then ask­ing, “What can we get?”

This isn’t the first time that NSA doc­u­ments have shown the agency tak­ing a keen in­terest in on­line gam­ing habits. Last year, re­ports sur­faced that the NSA and Bri­tain’s GCHQ in­filt­rate vir­tu­al real­it­ies of on­line video games, such as Second Life, in an ef­fort to un­cov­er and foil pos­sible ter­ror­ist plots. Agents had to con­vince their bosses they wer­en’t just play­ing the im­mers­ive games on the clock. World of War­craft play­ers were, un­sur­pris­ingly, not pleased.

The Angry Birds fran­chise has en­joyed more than 2 bil­lion down­loads.

What We're Following See More »
11 HOUSE MEMBERS NOW BEHIND HIM
Two Committee Chairs Endorse Trump
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Two powerful House members—Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL)—are throwing their support behind Donald Trump.

Source:
BUT WOULD HE THROW THE CHAIR?
Bobby Knight: Trump Would Drop the Bomb Just Like Truman
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
LAST PLACE
Trump Still Struggling for Endorsements
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
AT ISSUE: VENEZUELA SANCTIONS
Deal Struck to Confirm Ambassador to Mexico
11 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"The United States is finally about to get an ambassador to Mexico. Senate Republicans who have been negotiating a way to confirm Roberta Jacobson as the nation’s top diplomat to Mexico have reached the contours of an agreement that would allow Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—Jacobson’s chief obstacle—to secure renewed sanctions against Venezuela in exchange for lifting his objections."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Is Cleveland Paying for ‘Protest Insurance’ for the GOP Convention?
11 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Ten million dollars, plus another $1.5 million for the broker who will "develop and obtain" the policy. The concern: mass protests could lead to mass arrests, which could then lead to civil rights claims against the city.

Source:
×