The NSA has been collecting information through our emails, our “metadata”, our cell phone calls, and now we can add to the list “Leaky Apps.” In a recently released article on The Guardian, it’s been revealed that the NSA was using Angry Birds, on both iOS and Android, to collect information directly from the cell phone of a user. This completely changes the type of information the NSA knows about you. It’s not just who you recently talked to (in the past five years) but for many smart phones it could be significantly longer than that. For example, if the App is leaky enough to allow access to other applications on the phone, then it’s possible for the NSA to access the full all of their email, my Gmail account has emails from 2005 or earlier on it still. I archive things – probably going to go delete all of these emails.
According to the NSA, access to the full collection of social networks is even more valuable than access to phone records. With apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/Vine, Google+ and SnapChat, we are uploading and sending real time pictures and video of our lives. For a group of people interested in knowing everything about everyone, seeing real pictures is really valuable – especially since those same pictures will likely be associated with a GPS signal and at least one or two cell towers. In the case of an ongoing criminal investigation that will be invaluable.
This is infinitely more intrusive than only collecting the bulk information that we knew of before. In cases of snapchat and Vine it’s likely that the government is capturing our very private, personal, and nude images. There’s no reason the NSA needs to be capturing this data on everyone that has downloaded Angry Birds. The App has been downloaded approximately 1.7billion times – that’s a lot of phones and tablets that are effectively compromised. If the NSA figured out that these apps are leaky, it’s likely someone else did too.