NSA Spying Through Popular Mobile Apps Like “Angry Birds”

February 5, 2014 - 2 minutes read

nsa spying angry birds

According to a report co-authored by The New York Times and the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, the National Security Agency and its British equivalent are using game apps like Angry Birds to collect users’ personal information. Details of the program, obtained from classified British intelligence files, indicate that Angry Birds and other “leaky apps” are being targeted.

The spy agencies’ activities allow them to exploit data loopholes generated by leaky apps to determine a user’s age, sex, and other personal information, including identification codes that reveal the user’s location history. According to the intelligence documents, the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ began collaborating as early as 2007 to mine personal information from leaky apps. The spy files were leaked by notorious whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who is currently wanted on federal charges in the United States.

While it has long been known that GCHQ and the NSA routinely analyze telecommunications data for information on potential targets, the new documents shed far more light on the scope and goals of the program. Angry Birds is believed to be of interest because of its widespread popularity. Tens of millions of people around the globe play the game on their smartphones. U.S. President Barack Obama has introduced an initiative to limit the NSA’s ability to collect information from ordinary civilians, but are his efforts “too little, too late?”

Spy agency activities are a key concern for iPhone app development professionals. Regardless of a software developer’s intentions, it may be possible for the NSA and GCHQ to exploit loopholes and weaknesses to compromise an end user’s privacy.

London mobile app developers need to be particularly aware of these implications, as the city is considered the world’s most surveilled major metropolitan area. Unfortunately for civil liberties advocates, the NSA seems to have no intention of scaling back its widespread smartphone data collection program.

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