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 »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.