from being the grim reaper for green pigs, Angry Birds, according to
reports, is more than just a smartphone game app. Security agencies in
the USA and in Great Britain, namely the NSA and GCHQ, are said to be
able to collect vast amounts of personal data from these apps, also
called 'leaky' apps (a list that includes Facebook and Twitter),
according to multiple reports citing new documents provided by Edward
Snowden, former NSA contractor.
The purported leaked documents,
quoted by the Guardian and NYT, are said to explicitly reveal the
agencies at work to exploit 'leaky' apps (iPhone and Android apps were
specifically mentioned) that use photo sharing, geo-tagging, sharing of
location and a host of other such permissions.
The NSA and GCHQ
documents reveal capabilities to tap the data of a user, understand the type of
websites visited, age, gender, marital status and sexual orientation.
The simple interception (from user to network) of an uploaded photo to
social media can reportedly also yield a lot of user data, from the
email, phone number, buddy lists, and "a host of other social working
data as well as location."
The reports claim that the security
agencies' mobile application projects aim to deliver two capabilities,
namely: capability against mobile applications and target-centric
converged analysis of data converged from voice, text, and geo-tagging.
Both the documents were from the year 2010. The agencies have been
exchanging notes (also termed as recipes) on spying since 2007,
according to reports. The information that is nicked by the agencies,
helps them to piece together profiles of targeted users.
back to the birds and the green pigs, the Angry Birds, game manufacturer Rovio has
reportedly denied all involvement with spying and the security agencies
mentioned. Rovio, has said that the data collected by it is used to
improve the game and experience of playing it, and to help generate
tailor-made ads for users based on their location. In the documents that
were leaked, specific names of social networking apps like Facebook and
Twitter and also navigational apps like Google Maps are also mentioned.
It is still unclear as to how active the methods are, and which are the
President Obama also recently expressed concern
over the amount of metadata that can be viewed by the NSA, and how
tailor-made ads are sent to users based on their locations. NSA on their
part issued a document that read, "NSA does not profile everyday
Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission, because
some data of U.S. persons may at times be incidentally collected in
NSA's lawful foreign intelligence mission, privacy protections for
U.S. persons exist across the entire process." This was the response
sent to the questions asked about the programme. The NSA also said that
similar protections were in place for 'innocent foreign citizens'.