NSA Reportedly Collects 5 Billion Cell Phone Location Records a Day

About five billion mobile phone location records are logged by the National Security Agency every day, reports say.

The NSA reportedly collects up to 5 billion records a day on the locations of cell phones from all over the world, creating an impressive database that currently stores data received from hundreds of millions of devices, including those belonging to some Americans abroad. Photo: HuaweiDevice/Flickr

Documents provided to The Washington Post by worldwide famous whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal in details how the NSA’s database is tracking people worldwide and map out their relationships with others.

The National Security Agency constantly gathers location records of the U.S. citizens, along with the billions of other data it receives by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the publication claims.

As Fox News writes, the agency specialists are capable of looking through the data in order to track an person’s movements throughout the world. The analysts can then map out the person’s relationships with other individuals and expose previously unknown correspondence.

The NSA receives the incredible amount of cell phone information trying to find out who is interacting with targets the agency is already tracking, even though most of the records collected are not relevant to national security.

The number of Americans fell under the campagn aimed at the data collectioning overseas is hard to estimate basing on the Snowden documents, and a senior intelligence official told the Post it is “awkward for us to try to provide any specific numbers.”

“In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June,” write Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani in the Post. “Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among individuals using them.”

The article quotes an ACLU technologist on that issue: “One of the key components of location data, and why it’s so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don’t let you keep it private,” he says. “The only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave.”

By the way, according to sources familiar with the matter The Guardian has only published about 1% of some 58,000 files leaked by Edward Snowden—and it’s unlikely to “publish a huge amount more.”

The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, during questioning by lawmakers on Parliament’s home affairs committee accused British authorities of trying to intimidate the newspaper, and warned of “national security being used as a trump card” to stifle debate, Newser reports.

The publication’s editor revealed that the data leak amounted to about 58,000 files, and the newspaper had published “about 1 percent” of the total. “I would not expect us to be publishing a huge amount more,” he said.

As to attacks from some lawmakers and other officials, the Guardian’s representatives admitted that national security was apparently “being used as a trump card.”

“I feel that some of this activity has been designed to intimidate the Guardian,” he noted, arguing that publishing the reports was necessary to inspire debate about intelligence practices.

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.