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As Ars has previously reported, documents passed to journalists by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have shown that the NSA and its British counterpart agency, the GCHQ, have exploited privacy "leaks" in mobile applications (including Rovio's Angry Birds) to track individuals of interest. A new document recently published by Der Spiegel provides further details on just how much the GCHQ was able to extract from mobile data to keep tabs on those it targeted for surveillance. The British agency used a program referred to as BADASS to suck up data emitted from Angry Birds and other apps, and the information was so granular, analysts could even track how well (or poorly) a person was doing playing. BADASS is an acronym for "BEGAL Automated Deployment And Survey System," and the system pulled in data from GCHQ and NSA network taps identified as mobile analytics and advertising traffic. Among other things, this data included Google "pref" cookies (such as those used by Ars to identify users in our own passive network surveillance testing with NPR) and Flurry application analytic data used by developers to track usage and performance of their mobile apps. User location data and activity could also be monitored based on the data stream, allowing analysts to pinpoint an active user within minutes, according to the GCHQ presentation from 2011. Much of this data was easily tracked because the mobile apps did not encrypt data in transit, leaving data exposed to anyone who might be able to monitor the network. That's still the case for many of these analytics and advertising services. Source
Snowden: NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos "These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions," Snowden says. Edward Snowden has revealed that he witnessed “numerous instances” of National Security Agency (NSA) employees passing around nude photos that were intercepted “in the course of their daily work.” In a 17-minute interview with The Guardian filmed at a Moscow hotel and published on Thursday, the NSA whistleblower addressed numerous points, noting that he could “live with” being sent to the US prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He also again dismissed any notion that he was a Russian spy or agent—calling those allegations “bullshit.” If Snowden’s allegations of sexual photo distribution are true, they would be consistent with what the NSA has already reported. In September 2013, in a letter from the NSA’s Inspector General Dr. George Ellard to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the agency outlined a handful of instances during which NSA agents admitted that they had spied on their former love interests. This even spawned a nickname within the agency, LOVEINT—a riff on HUMINT (human intelligence) or SIGINT (signals intelligence). “You've got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old,” Snowden said. “They've suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records. In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense. For example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising position. But they're extremely attractive. “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and show their co-worker. The co-worker says: ‘Hey that's great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ And then Bill sends it to George and George sends it to Tom. And sooner or later this person's whole life has been seen by all of these other people. It's never reported. Nobody ever knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak. The fact that your private images, records of your private lives, records of your intimate moments have been taken from your private communications stream from the intended recipient and given to the government without any specific authorization without any specific need is itself a violation of your rights. Why is that in a government database?” Then Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, asked: “You saw instances of that happening?” “Yeah,” Snowden responded. “Numerous?” “It's routine enough, depending on the company that you keep, it could be more or less frequent. These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions." Update 5:27pm CT: In an e-mail sent to Ars, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines wrote: "NSA is a professional foreign-intelligence organization with a highly trained workforce, including brave and dedicated men and women from our armed forces. As we have said before, the agency has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities or professional standards, and would respond as appropriate to any credible allegations of misconduct." However, she declined to respond to direct questions as to the veracity of Snowden's allegations or if anyone at NSA had ever been terminated or otherwise punished for engaging in such behavior. Snowden: NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos | Ars Technica